Entering Wednesday, the largest deficit the Northport girls lacrosse team had faced all season was a mere two goals.
But when the Tigers faced the unfamiliar challenge of trailing by four goals in the first half, they refused to succumb to the pressure and proceeded to defend their county title.
Emma Demarco scored the go-ahead goal with 2:30 remaining and Kaylie Mackiewicz led the way with four goals and one assist as No. 1 Northport rallied and then outlasted No. 2 Smithtown East to win the Suffolk Class A final at home, 9-8.
"This is crazy and amazing," Mackiewicz said. "We really stepped up today as a team. I’m so excited for us and I think we can go all the way. I’m so hyped about it."
Northport (17-0) will face Massapequa in the Long Island Class A championship at Bethpage on Saturday at 10 a.m.
Shannon Smith, who added two goals and two assists, said the team’s ability to build up confidence in moments of adversity, such as trailing 6-2 before tying the score at 6 entering halftime, has been one of the key components toward Northport’s undefeated run this season.
"What we try to do is instead of tearing each other down and telling each other what we did wrong, we really try to build someone back up," Smith said. "It just keeps the momentum going and keeps us in the game."
Nina DeNicola led Smithtown East (14-3) with three goals and three assists.
Despite graduating a number of players from the 2019 state champion team over the last two years, the Tigers continue to remind themselves of their mantra: "Tradition never graduates" – a slogan that was quite fitting on this day.
"I was very proud of this team," Northport coach Carol Rose said. "We had to battle back and that pretty much gave us the momentum and confidence that we needed in the second half…They buy into upholding a winning tradition and our team has amazing chemistry."
Rose also commended her goalie, Megan Morris, for coming up with three of her six saves over the final two minutes to seal the victory.
"Megan came up huge," Rose said. "She’s come on very strongly during the playoffs. She’s only a sophomore and hasn’t faced many shots since our defense has been so strong. She faced a barrage of shots today and was a game-changer at the end."
Now the Tigers set their sights toward completing an undefeated season and winning a second consecutive Long Island championship.
"We have to improve on the mistakes we made today and fix them," Mackiewicz said. "We have to go out there as strong as we can so we can win it again. It’s about everyone going out and doing what they need to at their position."