Sayville celebrates their win in the Class C final at...

Sayville celebrates their win in the Class C final at the NYSPHSAA Girls Lacrosse Championships in Cortland, N.Y., Saturday, June 8, 2024. Sayville claimed the Class C title with a 9-5 win over Rye-I. Credit: Adrian Kraus

It was a full-circle moment for Sayville girls lacrosse coach Gary Jensen.

After helping start the program in 1998, he left in 2012 only to return this season and lead the Golden Flahses to their first state title. 

“Whenever I think about it, I just find myself smiling,” said Jensen, who coached the middle school and junior varsity teams before his grand return. “I’m still struggling to put the feeling into words. It’s crazy to think just how far this program has come. It started with us printing out our own uniforms in the tech room, so to think back to those kids, it’s amazing."

Sayville's 9-5 win over Rye in the state Class C final on June 7 at SUNY Cortland was the final lacrosse game for senior defender Sophia Montalto, who described her emotions as the game clock ran out as, well, “indescribable.”

“I felt so much love and gratitude for every girl on that team,” Montalto said. “I started crying immediately, not only because it was my last time playing, but because I was so happy I was able to end my career with this group of girls.”

The Golden Flashes (21-0) truly had a perfect season. They won the county title for the first time since 2009 before pulling off a double-first: Long Island and state crowns.  

“It was an incredible season of firsts," junior defender Lucy Livingston said. "We always stood by each other and Coach Jensen put trust in every single one of us."

Last season, Sayville fell to Mount Sinai by one goal in the county semifinals. So what changed in one year to help the program earn its first state title? Sofia Cangelosi said it was the team's mindset.

Jensen made the team motto this season, ‘Together we are one,’ emphasizing that success can only come when they work together.

“This made a big difference for us,” said Cangelosi, a junior midfielder. “ ‘Together we are one’ is something we’d chant after every practice and before every game. It meant that everything we were doing was for each other and that we can get so much farther working together rather than individually.”

Said Jensen, "Since the beginning of the season, we spoke about if you’re able to put in the hard work and if you are able to put the ‘we’ first, you can accomplish anything. To see that all pay off and for it to come true is very surreal.”

With it being the program's first appearance in the state final four, Montalto said the excitement and support they received from the Sayville community made them extra-motivated to return home with the title. Both Sayville Middle School and High School live-streamed the championship game for their students to watch.

“My friends were sending me videos of everyone watching the game in the cafeteria,” Montalto said. “It feels amazing knowing that we’ve brought our community together and they’re all backing us up. It made us want to play for something bigger.”

With one state championship down, Jensen hopes to make this a yearly tradition for the Sayville community.

“We brought up any junior varsity kid that wanted to be a part of the state championship experience,” Jensen said. “What they were able to learn was the leadership from the seniors, the effort and just what it takes to actually pull this off. To have these seventh, eighth, and ninth graders witness this already, they now understand what the blueprint of success is.”

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