Lauren DiStefano jumped in exuberance. Joe Nicolosi pumped his fist in satisfaction.
Those were the expected reactions from two key components in third-seeded West Islip’s 9-8 upset of top-seeded and previously undefeated Northport in Thursday night’s Suffolk Class A girls lacrosse championship game at Hauppauge.
DiStefano made save after show-stopping save, and Nicolosi, the coach of a team that’s won three county titles in four years, balanced an aggressive attack with needed patience to kill the clock in the second half.
West Islip never trailed, jumping out to a 6-2 lead by halftime and staving off a late 3-0 run by Northport (18-1). Even after Olivia Carner cut the deficit to 9-8 with 3:44 remaining, DiStefano remained unfazed. She stopped the run in its tracks.
“Lauren was huge. She had 10 saves, and 10 huge saves,” Nicolosi said. “Bottom line, I said this before the game. We needed Lauren to have seven to nine saves to be in the game. She had 10 and we won the game.”
Northport threatened in the final minute, racing down in transition after a turnover. But Jaden Hampel, the offensive star who scored two goals, caused a turnover and picked up a ground ball with 50 seconds remaining.
“I have the speed where at the end of the game, after the defense has done an outstanding job but can’t push the last second, I just run around and try to get as many balls as I can,” said Hampel, a sophomore with 86 points, fifth in Suffolk.
Hampel scored a highlight-reel goal with 7:27 left in the first half for a 5-2 lead, split-dodging from the eight-meter and spinning between two defenders before getting just enough on the shot to beat Northport’s Claire Morris (11 saves).
Morris started Northport’s transition game on multiple occasions, but DiStefano made clutch saves on the other end. She described the difficulty defending Northport’s potent offense.
“They take the side off the elbow,” she said. “The defense was awesome today getting slides. We just tried to hold them off as long as we could to finish this game.”
West Islip (14-5) plays Nassau Class A winner Massapequa in the Long Island championship game on Sunday at 5 p.m. at Islip.
The Lions didn’t falter despite entering as underdogs. Nicolosi said his West Islip teams succeed in big moments.
“Our girls work hard for myself and my assistant coach,” Nicolosi said. “They’re blue collar kids, and they’re scrappy. That’s what lacrosse is about, being scrappy and giving 110 percent the whole game. There were games we were down three, four goals and we won the game. That’s hard for teams to do that. I have one of those teams.”