St. Anthony's girls lacrosse teammates celebrate after their win over Sacred...

St. Anthony's girls lacrosse teammates celebrate after their win over Sacred Heart in the Nassau-Suffolk CHSAA Class AA final at Adelphi University on Wednesday, May 17, 2023. Credit: James Escher

A backup goalie in lacrosse can be similar to a backup quarterback in football. Usually, if they step on the field, something is going wrong. But like any good backup, it’s about making the most of your opportunity and Lexi Zenk did just that on Wednesday.

Zenk found herself in the cage with St. Anthony’s holding a one-goal lead with 1:27 left in the second half. She knew a save there would all but cement the Friars their fourth-straight league title. She was focused.

“My mentality is no matter where you are, no matter where you stand, you have to have that mentality that your number can be called at any point in time and you just have to be ready,” Zenk said. “You may not feel ready, but you need to be there for your team.”

Zenk was ready. The junior goalie halted a free-position shot and helped top-seeded St. Anthony’s to an 8-7 victory over No. 2 Sacred Heart in the CHSAA Class AA girls lacrosse final at Adelphi on Wednesday evening. Zenk started the second half with St. Anthony’s holding a 6-5 lead and limited Sacred Heart to only two goals, both on free positions, in the second half.

“She’s always ready to go,” coach Summer Koepplin said. “She’s ready to go whether she’s starting or coming off the bench, so I’m never shocked at Lexi coming from any position and playing well. She’s incredible.”

Zenk became overcome with emotion after making that pivotal save.

“As soon as I made that final save and defense brought it down the field, I started hysterically crying,” Zenk said. “This is literally my family and I couldn’t do it without them. I don’t know what the season would look like without them. This was genuinely an amazing time.”

Brooke Long scored the tying and winning goal for St. Anthony’s, finishing off an assist from Tess Calabria with 6:17 left to break the tie at 7. She also had a free-position goal with 11:24 left to tie the score at 7.

“She is just incredible,” Koepplin said. “She doesn’t quit. She’s taken over at midfield during the season and hasn’t let her foot off the gas once. She’s just a workhorse all the time.”

Long and Megan Kenny each had two goals and Calabria had a goal and two assists for St. Anthony’s.

Nothing was easy for the Friars on Wednesday. St. Anthony’s scored three of the game’s first four goals but Sacred Heart fought back to tie the score at 5 with Charlotte Browne’s goal with 53.8 seconds left in the first half. Jillian Lopez scored as time expired in the first half to give the Friars a 6-5 lead.

Sacred Heart had goals from Colleen Thieke and Frankie Gray to take a 7-6 lead 4:30 into the second half before Long's final two goals.

St. Anthony’s (16-2) defeated Sacred Heart (8-6) by a combined 17 goals during the regular season. But the Friars knew that wouldn’t mean much on Wednesday.

“Sacred Heart came to play,” defender Amanda Paci said. “They’re a great team and we came out a little slow to start but it was just such a good game. Back and forth the whole time.”

Koepplin was proud of how her team responded to a strong Sacred Heart performance to deliver the Friars another title.

“This team has such aggressive heart and determination and not one kid quit," she said. "I’m incredibly, incredibly proud of their perseverance."

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