CORTLAND, N.Y. — Each step of the way, the West Islip girls lacrosse team raised the bar.
Though the Lions fell short of achieving the ultimate goal, losing 13-8 to Syracuse-Christian Brothers Academy in the state Class A semifinals at SUNY-Cortland on Friday, coach Joe Nicolosi praised his team.
“Our road to get here, the three teams we beat in the playoffs, we lost to them in the regular season,” Nicolosi said. “We beat Smithtown West in overtime, then we beat Ward Melville, then we beat Northport. The Long Island championship, we had lost to Massapequa by five in the regular season. These kids have nothing to be ashamed of. They left their hearts on the field.”
West Islip (15-6) appeared to be building momentum in the second half. Trailing 7-3 at halftime, the Lions scored four of the first five goals of the second half, cutting the deficit to 8-7. Untimely turnovers after Jaden Hampel’s free-position goal made it a one-score game with 7:28 to play were the Lions’ undoing.
Nicolosi said, “Turnovers killed us,” but the defense succeeded at giving the offense late chances. Christian Brothers Academy (17-3), which plays Penfield in the final at 2 p.m. on Saturday, finished on a 3-0 run, even though West Islip forced mistakes from its offense earlier in the half.
Goalkeeper Lauren DiStefano anchored that defense, and though she only made three saves, the senior’s impact on the program cannot be understated. The four-year starter was part of three county championship teams and will play at Wagner next season. A senior-laden team helped turn West Islip into a perennial contender.
“They’ve raised the bar for this program like no other,” Nicolosi said. “Lauren being a four-year starter and taking this program to where we are, just being a staple in our defense and just being a great team leader, is unbelievable.”
DiStefano, Samantha Blair (three goals) and the other seniors leave the program in the hands of junior Danielle Marino (one goal, one assist) and sophomore Hampel (one, two), players who excelled in key roles this spring.
They helped keep West Islip alive in the second half.
“The future’s bright,” Nicolosi said. “We have a good group coming back. My younger kids are well developed, and they’re hungry. We’re in Cortland and half our town’s here. So, they leave the future in good hands.
“With our West Islip kids, one thing I say is that they step up to the plate and they get it done.”