Manhasset players celebrates a 17-2 win against Honeoye Falls-Lima during...

Manhasset players celebrates a 17-2 win against Honeoye Falls-Lima during the Class C girls lacrosse state championship game on Saturday, June 11, 2022, in Cortland. Credit: Hans Pennink

When you face the offensive prowess that is the Manhasset offense every day in practice, the games can seem like a relief.  

Manhasset led Long Island with 14.8 goals per game, totaling 251 goals in 17 games. With an offense filled with Division-I talent, there was never an easy day of practice for the Manhasset defense.

“I think we go against the best attackers in the country,” senior defender Despina Giannakopoulos said. “I may be biased, but the attackers on the teams we’ve played against don’t even compare to our attackers and going up against them makes us amazing. I mean, at practice it gets frustrating, but I know they are pushing us to become better versions of ourselves.”

The Manhasset defense showed all season that it was up to the task of matching the offense. Manhasset had one of the top defenses on Long Island, allowing 148 goals, the third-fewest in Nassau Conference I.

“We want to be able to support our attackers and midfielders,” said Giannakopoulos, who is committed to play at Harvard. “We want to be able to match their energy so when they are playing great, it motivates us to play great and we want to have our goalie’s back.”

This combination led Manhasset to the top goal-differential in Nassau (+103) en route to winning the state Class C championship at SUNY Cortland June 11. The Manhasset defense shined in the biggest game of the season, resulting in a 17-2 victory over Honeoye Falls-Lima. Manhasset’s first state title since 2018 capped a 15-2 season.

The backline, including Christina Petras, Alex Schneider, Alex Maliagros and Giannakopoulos, held Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake to one goal in the second half in the state semifinals. That was after the group held a talented Bayport-Blue Point offense to six goals in the Long Island Class C championship.

“It was just the bond they’ve had together to form that unit and know what each other is doing before it actually happens,” coach Meghan Clarke said. “Defense wins championships and they definitely put forth that effort and it shows.”

The Manhasset offense included dynamic playmakers in Alexis Morton, Shea Panzik, Annalisa Massaro, Caitlin Barrett, Ashley Newman, Mia LoPinto and Nicole Giannakopoulos, Despina's sister. All either have or are receiving Division-I interest.

“The girls we go against every day at practice are the best girls we are going to go against,” Despina Giannakopoulos said. “So when we go into a game, it takes a lot of that ease off and it makes us better defenders.”

“They inspire us, they motivate us, they push us every day to be the best defense we can be,” Petras said. “And playing against them every day, there’s no better practice.”

When the offense and defense work together in tandem, that’s when Manhasset was most dangerous. The team had an uncanny ability to move fast in transition following a stop and although the scorers may often garner the attention, the whole team understands how many of those goals start with a defensive stand.

“It feels amazing either way,” Petras said. “When we make a stop and our offense puts the ball in the back of the net, there’s no better feeling. We are all happy for each other and I feel we all get the recognition at the end of the day.”

And it all culminated with a state title.

“It was never about yourself and what I wanted for myself,” Despina Giannakopoulos said. “It was about what I wanted for this team and I knew this team was capable of winning a state championship.”

MANHASSET'S ROAD TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP

Quarterfinal: Def. No. 7 Lynbrook, 18-9

Semifinal: Def. No. 3 North Shore, 19-11

Final: Def. No. 1 Wantagh, 19-11

Long Island: Def. Bayport-Blue Point, 8-6

State Class C semifinals: Def. Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, 20-10

State Class C final: Def. Honeoye Falls-Lima, 17-2

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