Long Island Lutheran’s girls lacrosse team started this season 0-4 and lost those games by a combined 62 goals.
But the Crusaders never gave up on themselves.
Entering the postseason as the third seed, the Crusaders defeated No. 1 Stony Brook School, 10-8, to win the fourth PSAA championship in five years at Cantiague Park Friday afternoon.
“They really bought in and they’re such a close-knit group,” coach Denis Scannell said. “The more experienced players worked with our younger players and they just kept getting better every single day.”
After the first minute of play, it was impossible to tell that LuHi had already suffered two regular-season losses to Stony Brook, which entered the game 10-0 against PSAA opponents. Stony Brook dominated those games, winning 22-4 on March 31 and 20-6 on April 13.
The Crusaders played with extra fire from the start as Emma Von Essen won the opening draw and scored after just 33 seconds. She won the next draw and found Ella O’Hara for another goal 10 seconds later.
“We didn’t come into this game thinking ‘we lost 22-4, we don’t have a chance.’ We came in knowing that we could win this game,” Von Essen said.
Alexis Savage scored with 30 seconds left in the first half to cut Stony Brook’s deficit to two. But Bella Zingoni scored 15 seconds later and Von Essen added another goal as the buzzer sounded to give LuHi an 8-4 halftime lead.
Von Essen is a senior, but this was her first lacrosse season since seventh grade.
“I’ve never met a more competitive human,” Scannell said about Von Essen, who was named playoff MVP. “She wears her talent so lightly and she shares it with everybody.”
O’Hara scored LuHi’s final two goals in a 13-second span to give the Crusaders a 10-6 lead, with Von Essen assisting the second goal.
“I know that no matter where I go, Emma is going to find me,” O’Hara said. “If I need to, I can clear out and she can take it herself.”
“I trust Ella,” Von Essen added. “We have a great ‘Ella and Emma’ connection.”
Von Essen finished with four goals and one assist and O’Hara had three goals and one assist. Savage scored six goals and Natalia Pagano had a goal and three assists for Stony Brook.
After going going 0-6 in 2021, LuHi finishes this season 8-6-1 and advances to the NYSAIS tournament.
“Last year, we didn’t win a single game,” O’Hara said. “We have a lot of the same girls from last year’s team, so it’s just insane to see the improvement.”