Sophia Virgilio of St. John the Baptist, center, approaches head coach Janine Pirone...

Sophia Virgilio of St. John the Baptist, center, approaches head coach Janine Pirone with a big smile after winning the CHSAA Class A girls lacrosse state championship against Xaverian on Sunday to Sacred Heart. Credit: Dawn McCormick

There’s no debating that last year was a tough season for the St. John the Baptist girls lacrosse team. But its returning members were determined not to make last spring’s struggles a trend.

St. John the Baptist completed that quest on Sunday afternoon with a 17-7 victory over Xaverian in the state CHSAA ‘A’ girls lacrosse final at Sacred Heart Academy. The victory capped off an 11-8 season for a program that won just one game last year.

“That kind of defeats your confidence, but when you’re actually winning and getting what you deserve, it changes,” said Sophia Virgilio, who had six goals and two assists on Sunday. “We’ve worked so hard and we all knew that we deserved something like this, so that really kept us going.”

Virgilio and Gabby Cimino both had dominant performances. Cimino had three goals and nine assists, playing a role in 70.6% of St. John the Baptist’s goals.

“I was definitely more locked in today,” Cimino said. “I was nervous to start but as soon as we got going and two minutes into the first [quarter], it was just excitement. It was my last game, so I had to give it everything I had.

“It’s my last ride,” she added, while fighting back tears.

St. John the Baptist coach Janine Pirone credited Cimino’s playmaking and field vision for helping to create offensive opportunities.

“Gabby is so important,” Pirone said. “She was a transfer last year and like I said to her on senior day, she found her home. This home is a special place for her.”

Virgilio was the benefactor of multiple precise passes from Cimino.

“Gabby always finds me,” Virgilio said. “She always waits a second longer because she knows I try to stall a second and cut behind my defender. It’s like a magnet, I don’t know how she always gets it to me but we work off each other.”

St. John the Baptist outscored Xaverian 8-1 in the second quarter to take a 10-3 lead. Xaverian finished 12-3 overall.

Prestyn Harrison added three goals and an assist and Violet Harrison and Anna French each had two goals for St. John the Baptist.

The Cougars won their first state title in program history after capturing the NSCHSAA ‘A’ title with a 15-1 win over Our Lady of Mercy on Monday.

“It’s the best way to end it,” senior defender Amelia Delisle said. “Not only winning the league championship but also the state championship. Just after how hard the team has worked and grown over the last four years, it just means a lot to see it all come together.”

“I talked to them today about the history of it and never take it for granted,” Pirone said. “Not every athlete, not every player gets to see a championship game, let alone two. Not every player gets the chance to make history and that’s what this group did. They’re a special group of girls.”

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