Payton Tini of Locust Valley lines up her shot on...

Payton Tini of Locust Valley lines up her shot on goal during the Nassau Class C girls lacrosse playoff game against Friends Academy in Locust Valley on Thursday, May 18, 2023. Credit: Peter Frutkoff

The four seniors on the Locust Valley girls lacrosse team have tried to set an example for the young squad all season long. An example of learning. An example of excellence. An example of winning. And the Falcons weren’t ready to let Thursday be the final lesson.

Host No. 7 Locust Valley defeated No. 10 Friends Academy, 13-8, in the opening round of Nassau Class C playoffs. 

The Falcons accomplished this in large part to those seniors setting the tone with Payton Tini’s five goals and two assists and Olivia Del Tatto leading the defense against some strong Friends Academy offensive threats.

“This whole season we’ve worked toward this goal and we have a really young team,” Del Tatto said. “We want to work toward that success and we want to make it known this school is also great for lacrosse on Long Island. Our big goal has been to keep this going and show Long Island we can be in these big lacrosse games, too.”

The Falcons (15-2) will certainly have a chance to display that on Monday when they play at No. 2 Wantagh (12-3) in the Nassau Class C quarterfinals at 5 p.m. Wantagh defeated Locust Valley, 17-3, in the same round last season.

Tini was pivotal on both ends of the field on Thursday. Her vast playoff experience in multiple sports shined as she led the team in scoring and challenged top offensive players on defense.

“I want to keep my career going as long as possible before I go to college,” Tini said. “We were just saying, ‘Don’t make this our last game’ because we want to keep playing.”

“As a coach, you love a player like Payton because she knows when the game is on the line,” coach Carolyn Morales said. “She’s been in these situations multiple times and she just knows how to rise in these situations and lead by example. And the whole team follows her.”

Lillian Lee had three goals for Friends Academy (11-5).

Locust Valley scored three goals over six minutes to close the first half and take a 7-3 lead. Tini scored three consecutive goals over a span of 11 minutes to give the Falcons a 12-5 lead with 8:24 left.

Lilly DeNatale had three goals and an assist and fellow eighth-grader Elizabeth Vitale added two goals and an assist. Katherine Nabet, a sophomore, added three goals.

“The whole team played a tremendous role today,” Tini said. “You really can’t do it without everyone else. Our whole starting attack is basically middle schoolers and they really stepped up.”

Locust Valley embraces the difficult challenge ahead against Wantagh. The Falcons understand nothing will come easy, but they want to prove they can play with the best.

“We’re not going to step aside,” Tini said. “We’re not going to go in like we’re losing. We’re going to go in with everything we have and we’re going to work extremely hard like we have all season.”

“We just want to show everyone that we can be just as good as Wantagh,” Del Tatto said. “We’ve had a really good season so far and we want to continue that.”

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