A timid start by the St. Anthony’s girls lacrosse team put the Friars at a one-goal disadvantage at halftime.
Coach Summer Koepplin’s pep talk centered on playing like there was nothing to lose. Against Manhasset, ranked No. 1 in Newsday’s girls lacrosse rankings and No. 2 in the nation by US Lacrosse, St. Anthony’s could ill afford to play tight.
The Friars proceeded to win the first five draws and score the first five goals of the second half, setting the stage for an 11-9 win over the Indians in a late-season non-league contest in South Huntington. Katie DeSimone scored four goals — three in the first half when offense was hard to find — and Erin O’Grady made four of her six saves in the second half.
“Manhasset is a fantastic team, so you go in there just prepared for a battle,” Koepplin said. “In the second half, I think they were just ready to leave everything on the field.”
With Charlotte Verhulst taking the draw, Koepplin shifted Sophia Iaccino to the circle to add height. She and Hunter Roman helped Verhulst earn pivotal possessions late in the game.
Emma LoPinto had given Manhasset (12-2) a 6-5 lead with 5:54 left before halftime. Kira Accettella assisted Natalie Smith 58 seconds into the second half to tie the score, then DeSimone converted a free position less than a minute later for a 7-6 St. Anthony's lead.
Verhulst followed with consecutive goals, then Accettella punctuated the 5-0 run by corralling a rebound and firing quickly before the defense could react. St. Anthony’s (13-1) led 10-6 with 7:31 remaining.
“We knew we couldn’t let up,” said DeSimone, a junior. “They’re a good team, and we didn’t want to give them any wiggle room to come back.”
Manhasset made the game close when Maria Themelis scored consecutive player-up goals inside the final three minutes and cut the deficit to 11-9, but the St. Anthony’s defense rejected a further push.
Taking direction from O’Grady — a sophomore who Koepplin said is the most vocal player on the field — the defense shined. Colleen Mooney and Allison Koehler made big stops and pressured Manhasset’s top options, limiting the Indians’ ability to create.
“Our defense really stepped up,” O’Grady said. “We played really well in the first half, but it was lights out in the second half.”
DeSimone is calling this the team’s revenge tour, as losing in last spring’s CHSAA championship game to Sacred Heart left a sour taste. Peaking at the right time, the Friars seem ready for the challenge.