The grand stage of the Suffolk Class A title game wouldn't faze West Islip, they insisted. Going after the program's first championship? Nope.
But that didn't mean the Lions were free and easy. The pressure to win Thursday night, strangely enough, came from all the winning the girls lacrosse team already had done.
"Being undefeated this late in a season isn't easy," Lions coach Joe Nicolosi said. "Once you're in the playoffs, it's one-and-done."
The understanding that one slip-up and a season's worth of dominance goes for naught. That pressure mounted for weeks. That pressure was palpable. That pressure . . . produced a crown.
Riley Hill and Lindsay Darrell each had two goals and an assist to lead No. 1 West Islip over second-seeded Hauppauge, 8-6, at Dowling.
"Being undefeated is kind of scary," Darrell said, "but there's a reason we haven't lost."
And there's a reason the Lions leaped into each other's arms at the final horn: They finally had captured a title.
West Islip (19-0) used a 6-0 run midway through the first half to take control. Emily Piciullo tied it at 2, and Darrell put them ahead for good 5:56 before halftime. Grace Davidson's goal gave the Lions a 7-2 lead early in the second half.
Hauppauge chipped away and Darla Poulin's third goal pulled it within 7-5 with 15:22 remaining. But Lena Riportella answered with 6:55 left. Darrell won the ensuing draw and West Islip drained four minutes of clock. Carly Tellekamp had two goals and an assist for the Eagles.
It was actually Hauppauge (14-4) that helped prepare the Lions for these high-leverage situations. All season West Islip coasted, until a May 9 meeting with the Eagles, when it took a last-minute rally from down two and Davidson's triple-overtime goal to win. "That tested our resilience," Riportella said, "but it got us ready for this challenge."
West Islip, Long Island's last undefeated team, faces Farmingdale for the L.I. title at 7 p.m. on Sunday at Dowling.
"We know the target is on us," Hill said, "but you can't be mad about a championship."