Dance parties in the hotel. Superhero costumes. Endless practical jokes on teammates and pranks on the coaches. Oh, the girls just want to have fun.
"It's a group of kids that genuinely care about each other," coach Mike Heedles said of his Garden City girls soccer team, which captured a second state title. "As you keep winning, the bonds become stronger and the nerves ease. So they really enjoyed themselves."
Certainly. But, uh, "Girls Just Want to Have Fun"?
One of the season's highlights, the players said, was watching Heedles -- typically a disciplinarian -- belt out the lyrics to a Cyndi Lauper classic on the ride to Cortland.
"I'm a horrible singer," the coach conceded. "I have no business even trying to sing."
The players agree. Which is precisely why footage of Heedles harmonizing (or attempting to) quickly found its way to the Internet.
"We were dying laughing," Deanna DiPierro said. "He tried to get us to sing along, but we were too busy recording him."
That idea was birthed on the way back from a summer scrimmage in New Jersey. The players, singing playfully, implored Heedles to join in. He refused but allowed a stipulation, Haley O'Hanlon said. He would croon . . . if the team reached the state tournament. Both promises were kept. And assistant coach Scott McAuley even performed "Rapper's Delight" on the ride back.
"From the start," Kerry Defliese said, "we knew we would be good."
They were. O'Hanlon, Katherine Malhame and Lauren Meismer excelled in the midfield; Kayla Murphy was a skilled striker; Taylor Carpentier emerged as a solid goalkeeper; Caroline Beaty, DiPierro, Colette and Megan Seel anchored a defense that didn't allow a goal in its final seven games.
Good. But were they South Side good? That has long been the measure for Class A teams; the Cyclones had won seven of the previous nine state titles.
But Garden City stunned the two-time defending state champs in penalty kicks in the Nassau final. Carpentier made 16 saves in a shutout ("I felt like Hope Solo," she joked) and freshman Kelly George booted the clinching score. "Once we got past counties," O'Hanlon said, "we felt confident we could go all the way."
The Trojans' time upstate was filled with high jinks, including Murphy, Defliese, Sam Meismer and manager Bri Maglio rushing teammates' rooms dressed as Batman and Superman. "That was to be expected," DiPierro said. "We're not very serious."
Until they have to be. That weekend in Cortland was about fun and games. O'Hanlon put forth a "legendary" performance with three goals in the semifinal. And George was the "boss," scoring the winner off a pass from Katherine Galzerano for the program's first state title since 2010. ("Legendary" and "boss," by the way, were the team's adopted catchphrases in describing outstanding feats.)
"I couldn't be more proud of what we accomplished," Heedles said. "This group was truly special."
Now that's music to their ears.