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SportsHigh SchoolGirls Lacrosse

After injury to top player, teammates stepped up for Manhasset

Indians lost opening game then reeled off 20 victories in a row to capture Class B girls lacrosse state championship.

Manhasset players and coaches pose for photos after

Manhasset players and coaches pose for photos after their win in the Class B final at the NYSPHSAA girls lacrosse Championships in Cortland on June 9, 2018. Photo Credit: Adrian Kraus

When it comes to the Manhasset girls lacrosse team, there’s no such thing as seniority. If you practice well and show your worth, coach Danielle Gallagher will find ways to get you playing time.

Consider this spring season Exhibit A.

When Maryland-bound senior Madison Rielly was lost early in the season to an injury, the Indians responded with a complete team effort. It culminated in a state Class B championship, the team’s first state crown since 2014.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re the best athlete,” Gallagher said. “If you don’t work well in the system and there’s a system in place, you’re probably not going to play.”

Manhasset enjoyed contributions from all levels. Grace Gately, a freshman, scored arguably the team’s biggest goal of the year, an overtime winner against Eastport-South Manor to win the Long Island Class B championship.

Emma LoPinto, another freshman, scored 35 goals. Shea Garcia (47 goals), Kelly Trotta (54) and Maria Themelis (18) also contributed. Senior midfielders Maggie Beresheim and Katie Bellucci excelled between the 30s, and goalkeeper Krissy Kowalski anchored a staunch defensive unit.

Kowalski said losing the season’s first game to Cold Spring Harbor — Manhasset’s only loss in a 20-1 campaign — inspired the team to play up to its potential.

“I think the fact that we lost our first game, it kind of opened up our eyes,” Kowalski said. “And the fact that Madison Rielly went down, it forced people to step up, like Kelly Trotta, Grace Gately and other people. It forced us to work as a team. Our team motto this year was, ‘One.’ ”

“One” didn’t just stand for the team’s lone loss. It stood for how, as a unit, Manhasset could reach the lofty goals set by Gallagher, who said in a preseason questionnaire sent to Newsday that Manhasset “has the potential to do great things.”

Gallagher’s defense was one of the top groups on Long Island, shutting down prominent scorers and holding potent offenses to low digits. In her words, they “stymied a lot of really good offenses.”

Erin Trotta (Kelly’s twin sister), Olivia Dooley, Casey Roszko and Caroline Mondiello credited their experience playing together for multiple years as one of the reasons why they didn’t buckle. They didn’t need help bonding, but Gallagher said a March trip helped bring everyone together.

“We took a trip to Florida and I think that was huge,” she said. “It helped with team bonding and the chemistry throughout the season. I think that’s definitely a critical component. This is a group of kids that care about each other, love each other and love the sport.”

That love of sport encouraged Manhasset players to work to earn their roles, and there wasn’t a single player that overshadowed another. When one got faceguarded, another three stepped up to score. That’s why Manhasset was so tough to beat.

“I think like coach Gallagher said, each day we came to practice and tried to get a little bit better,” Kowalski said. “If you’re playing well, she lets you step on that field and prove what you’ve got.”

And even though it started off on the wrong foot, the Indians bounced back to win 20 straight games and a state title. And if someone told Kowalski that Manhasset would be a state champion after that start?

Said Kowalski: “I wouldn’t have believed them.”

INDIANS’

ROAD TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP

Nassau B playoffs

Mepham, 21-4

South Side, 19-8

Garden City, 14-5

Long Island championship

Eastport-South Manor, 11-10

State semifinals

Fayetteville-Manlius, 14-8

State championship

Brighton, 6-4

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