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Sacred Heart Academy happy to have a place they can call home

Sacred Heart Academy's varsity girls' lacrosse team practices

Sacred Heart Academy's varsity girls' lacrosse team practices on its newly-constructed field on school grounds. (April 11, 2013) Credit: James Escher

Meghan Ginty described it as surreal, her team standing in awe and scanning its surroundings, in a moment she "didn't think would ever happen."

They were on Sacred ground, after all.

Sacred Heart Academy recently completed construction of the school's first athletic field and the girls lacrosse team christened it last Saturday.

That game -- a double overtime win against Victor Central, visiting from Rochester -- was literally the Spartans' first time setting foot on their home turf. Bleachers haven't been installed yet and the track surrounding the field is expected to be laid this summer, but . . .

"We were anxious, so as soon as we heard the field was ready, we were on it," said Spartans coach Morgan Molinari, a former lacrosse star at Sacred Heart. "We couldn't wait to use it."

The school had waited 64 years to get it. After five years of petitioning, planning and fundraising, the $2-million construction project began last June. The process was spearheaded by the board of trustees, school president Sister Jeanne Ross and development director Mary Jo Clarke, with a portion of the funds coming from parents and alumni donations. Junior midfielder Erin Pfail helped raise $5,000.

"Four Sisters Field" -- a name requested by an anonymous donor -- is adjacent to the school, facing Cathedral Avenue in Hempstead. The turf field has standard dimensions (sans football yard markers), a large scoreboard and the letters "SHA" emblazoned in red and gold at midfield. Sacred Heart is an all-girls school, so the field will be used primarily for lacrosse and soccer.

"It's awesome and we love it," senior Annie Westlake said. "It's going to make a huge difference because we won't have to travel all the time and we can work on everything in practice now."

In the past, the Spartans played all their games on the road and practiced on a short grass field behind the school. The space restrictions, Ginty said, kept them from practicing full-field transition techniques or executing multiple drills simultaneously. Sessions often ran late because of it.

The lacrosse team's success, however, likely factored in getting the field. Sacred Heart has made five straight CHSAA finals and last year was ranked 37th in the country. "It shows that athletes do want to come here," Molinari said, and the new field "can only help" in attracting students.

The Spartans had two home games last week and their second was a 14-13 double overtime victory against rival St. John the Baptist. They'll host Kellenberg on Friday.

"It's a boost of energy and a feeling of pride playing home games," Molinari said. "We've got T-shirts now that say, 'Protect this House!' "

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