St. John the Baptist girls lacrosse team win the CHSSA...

St. John the Baptist girls lacrosse team win the CHSSA girls lacrosse Class A state final against Xaverian on Sunday, May 19, 2024 in Hempstead. Credit: Dawn McCormick

There’s a new standard set for the St. John the Baptist girls lacrosse program.

The Cougars decided to drop from a Class AA to a Class A program for girls lacrosse entering the school year. That doesn’t change their regular-season league schedule much, as they still play schools like St. Anthony’s and Sacred Heart along with other CHSAA schools both in Class AA and Class A. But with this move, once the postseason starts, that’s when St. John the Baptist truly begins a second season.

The CHSAA Class A division is still filled with strong talent on Long Island and the rest of New York. And in just its first season competing at Class A, the Cougars went from a one-win team last year to a state championship this spring after St. John the Baptist defeated Xaverian, 17-7, on May 19 at Sacred Heart Academy to win its first state title in program history.

“I think this really benefits the program because honestly after coming off a season like last year when you win one game, when I’m talking to my friends about lacrosse they are thinking of the girls team as a weak one,” said junior attack Sophia Virgilio, who led Long Island with 83 goals and ranked third in points (109). “But to come out like this and win a state championship, it really boosts the program.”

St. John the Baptist won just one game last season but went 11-8 this year. Just that realistic goal of a state championship at Class A made a huge difference to the players all spring.

“The entire vibe of this year was so different,” senior defender Angelina DeAmicis said. “Last year, it was kind of gloomy and just going on to play the next game but this year actually winning and having good games was just an awesome experience. It was not a chore to come to practice.”

Meg Casey enrolled at St. John the Baptist as a soccer player. But she was convinced to try lacrosse and ended up as the Cougars’ goalie for the last three seasons and played an integral role in St. John the Baptist winning the state championship. SJB allowed only nine goals in three playoff games.

Casey quickly felt the difference within the team this season and the chance to make history added to that.

“I felt like we weren’t as discouraged,” Casey said. “We knew we could make history now, without a doubt, we could do it. And I think that’s what helped us play better at the end. I’ve obviously given 100% effort in every sport I’ve ever played, but knowing this could pay off for something, I feel that really changed the mood for everyone.”

Coach Janine Pirone said there was a long discussion and debate about the benefits and deterrents of moving from Class AA to Class A. But after seeing how the team reacted this year, she believes it's the best move for the program.

“It helps to put [St. John the Baptist] on the map," Pirone said. “We are a competitive program, we have a lot of talent and the girls buy into what we have here, so it’s good to get [St. John the Baptist] back in the news and get people talking again.”

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