For just a second, Caroline Fitzgerald, All-American midfielder, known for her down-and-dirty grit on the field, envisions a world where Shayna and Sydney Pirreca aren't playing next to her.
"It's going to be really hard," she said. "I mean, we've just always been together . . . We're really close. Even on Sundays, when we're without each other, we talk about how much we miss each other."
The Mount Sinai senior is uncharacteristically shaken. Saturday, she explained on Friday, is senior day, and the wide-open future is coming up fast. Never mind that Shayna will be following her to the University of Florida next year and that Sydney, a sophomore, will be going the year after that.
"But it's not just us three," she said. "Our whole team has been bonding a lot this year and we're really close. They chemistry shows."
At 14-0, the Mustangs are the only remaining undefeated public school girls lacrosse team in Suffolk, outscoring teams 211-91. Sparking the engine are the three Florida-bound standouts, whose on-the-field synergy is nothing short of alchemy. There's Fitzgerald, "who does all the dirty work," Sydney said. And then there are the sisters -- Shayna, the junior attack whose soft-spoken nature both supports and belies her tactical but ultimately devastating play, and Sydney, outgoing in conversation and in-your-face on the field. She's likely the fastest player on Long Island, coach Al Bertolone said.
"One's a freight train and the other is a stealth bomber," Bertolone said of the sisters.
There are, of course, others -- midfielder Mary Ellen Carron, a force on defense, Villanova-bound goalie Julia Michaels, a cerebral, measured leader, and attack Kasey Mitchell, returning from an ACL injury this year to become a linchpin of the offense. But far from making predictions and projections about any postseason success, the chemistry has forced them to live in the moment, Sydney said.
"Obviously, our goal is to win a championship, but that's every team's goal," Sydney said. "It's not always just about winning the biggest game. It's about being level and consistent, and I think as a team, that's our focus."
But, "we want to do the best we can for [the seniors]," Shayna said. "This is their last chance."
The relationship between she and her sister is as big a component as any. The duo competed as gymnasts when Shayna was in seventh grade, before both leaving to concentrate on lacrosse. They're together constantly -- at home, at school, and on their travel team, the Yellow Jackets. Fitzgerald plays with them on the Yellow Jackets as well.
"Sydney is more of a big sister than I am," Shayna said. "She bosses me around and she's more outgoing, but I know that if anything would ever happen, she would stick up for me like I would for her."
The contrast -- Shayna's measured nature and Sydney's explosive one -- "evens everything out" and works perfectly on the field, Shayna said. Lacrosse ("and maturity") has even gone as far as to iron out sibling squabbles.
"We kind of pick each other up, because we go through the same stuff home and on the field," Sydney added. "It's actually easier to have a sister."
Though Shayna's decision to go to Florida didn't influence her sister, "I think that I feel more comfortable," Sydney said. Shayna echoes the sentiment. She wanted the choice to be her own, but "knowing that I had a friend [in Caroline] made me a lot more comfortable."
Fitzgerald, for her part, is just biding her time. She was recruited the summer before junior year and was immediately taken by the Florida coaching staff. She can't wait for the extra company.
"I think it's really cool that I have a year to do my own thing and then have my best friends show up in the next two years," she said. "A lot of people grow apart after high school and I definitely think we'll be close friends forever."
Not that she's in any rush, not with the balance Mount Sinai has achieved.
"Right now, as a team, everyone is bringing something to the table," Fitzgerald said. "As cliche as it sounds, we're a family."
Does that make her an honorary Pirreca?
"Almost," she said, grinning.