It began as one of those team-building things that all teams do. The Massapequa girls soccer players got henna kits from the craft store, had a pasta party and scrawled a motto on their wrists -- a talisman that was supposed to last for nearly three weeks, well into the upcoming playoffs.
"1 Team. 1 Heart. 1 Family," it said.
Well, the henna wore off right before the Long Island championship game. The captains got into a fight over who was going to drive to the store after school and shell out the cash for more supplies. The kits sold out and they had to settle on nearly $75 worth of henna pens, courtesy of goalie Katie Hatziyianis (she had a discount).
And then, when everything had gone wrong, a funny thing happened. The tattoos kinda worked.
"That was the biggest fight," co-captain Taylor Kugler said. "It was like a blowout. There was crying . . . But then I can honestly say these are my sisters. We fight like siblings. We acted like a family and I think that led us to win the state championship because we all played with each other as a family."
But before that -- before Hope Breslin's dramatic goal helped the Chiefs defeat Northport, before Kristin Muir's corners sent them to the state final, and before Alyssa Iannuzzi's goal made them Class AA state champions -- they had to learn how to become a team.
"The first week of preseason, we had a lot of new girls and a lot of changes in the lineup," said Hatziyianis, who captains along with Kugler and Nicole Mahin. "I think we had to adapt quickly and grow together."
Most of that happened on the strength of the three captains, junior Mackenzie Palmer said. "They really worked hard to make us become one family," she said. There were hip hop Zumba sessions, various parties -- anything, really, to make sure the girls clicked.
Once they'd really become one team -- around midseason, Kugler said -- they worked on having one heart. The tattoos were to be a constant reminder of their goal. At the state dinner, the day before the tournament, they came in late together and were told they had to perform a skit. They improvised a dance, made backup goalie Rebecca White sing ("she made it past the first round of the X-Factor," Palmer said), "and then we all left early," Hatziyianis said, laughing.
The night before the state final, they held a talent show to ease the tension and Kugler's team was disqualified for dancing to a certain Sir-Mix-A-Lot classic. Laughter abounded and their motto, Kugler said, "really was our motto."
The day after that, they won it all on Iannuzzi's goal with about eight minutes left.
When time expired, the Chiefs posed in front of their state championship sign, index fingers up in the universal sign of "we're No. 1."
Except their wrists exposed another interpretation, in bold, dark henna.
"1 Team. 1 Heart. 1 Family."