The St. Anthony's girls lacrosse team, known for its marked precision and smooth-operator swagger, suddenly was befuddled. The players turned left to right, exchanging shrugs, searching for an answer.
Is it four or five? How many fingers were to be held up during the celebratory team photo? The number, obviously, indicating how many consecutive championships the Friars have won.
"We don't really pay much attention to how many championships we've got," senior Annie Heagerty said. "We live for the present; it's about where we are right now."
And, right now, they are champions again. The thumbs eventually were extended and palms fully exposed. Five in a row. Some symmetry, too, as St. Anthony's is also the fifth-ranked team in the country. The Friars bear the CHSAA Class AA crown once more, this time with a 19-12 win over Sacred Heart Monday night at Adelphi.
"Well, for the seniors, this is our fourth," Darcy Messina said. "Some of the younger girls had older sisters who played before on the team, so they're counting the fifth."
However it's tallied, the sum is dominance.
Heagerty, who was named league MVP, had four goals and two assists to lead top-seeded St. Anthony's (16-1). Messina added four goals and an assist, Maggie Bill scored four goals, and Stephanie Paloscio had three goals and four assists. Tori Holland made six saves in the win.
"This one means everything," Friars coach Corinne Lomangino said. "These seniors are one of the most incredible groups I've ever coached."
Considerate, too. Unlike last year, the players were certain to stash Lomangino's cellphone before emptying the Gatorade cooler on her.
And, unlike last year, St. Anthony's had to struggle at times with No. 2 Sacred Heart (16-4). Meghan Breen's goal gave the Spartans a 3-1 lead with 16:07 left in a back-and-forth first half that had five lead changes.
Heagerty's goal tied it at 3, and Kasey Behr put the Friars ahead at 12:06. But Becky Conto (three goals) tied it for the Spartans at 11:14. “Hats off to Sacred Heart,” Messina said. “They came out hard and showed they’re true competitors.”
The Friars went ahead for good, 8-7, on Messina's goal -- a bullet from 6 yards right into the far corner -- 2:15 before intermission.
Heagerty added another 21 seconds later. St. Anthony's took control with a 4-1 run to start the second half, including two of the three goals scored by Alexis Nicolia.
Maeve Quinn (three goals) pulled Sacred Heart within 15-12 with 10:49 remaining, but they would get no closer.
Nina Corcoran had three goals and three assists for the Spartans. Breen added two goals and Emma Salter made 10 saves.
“‘Perseverance’ is probably the synopsis of this team,” Spartans coach Morgan Molinari said of Sacred Heart, ranked 31st in the country. The Spartans climbed the national rankings this season with several impressive wins, including a three-game sweep of Florida’s best teams. Coach Shannon Ledwith added: “We accomplished a lot this year, and I think we’re even better than our ranking.”
As for St. Anthony's, can these championships ever become routine?
"No way," defender Jenny Schwalje said as her sister, Lauren, a former St. Anthony's star, looked on. "The dogpile is the best. How can that ever get old?"