Good Evening
Good Evening
SportsHigh SchoolGirls Soccer

Massapequa girls soccer was proud to call itself "The Swarm" and quite 'obnoxious' about it

Massapequa's Melanie Hingher celebrates her first goal against

Massapequa's Melanie Hingher celebrates her first goal against West Islip with Meghan McCabe and teammates during the first half of the Long Island girls soccer Class AA final at Dowling Sports Complex on Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014. Credit: Brad Penner


If that wasn't the most contradictory hashtag ever . . . Well, at least as it pertains to Massapequa girls soccer.

A swarm, by definition, is anything but low-key, and theirs certainly was no different. No, this group was as talkative as it was talented.

Let's go back to Aug. 30. Created that day was the team's unofficial nickname -- "The Swarm" -- and it quickly spread to social media and soccer fields and, really, anywhere any of them went. It was even written in chalk on driveways.

It became a battle cry as players often screamed "SWARM!" at the top of their lungs, and Cara Gallagher's dad led similar cheers among the parents.

So when Tara McBrien began a "low-key swarm" campaign (complete with Internet hashtags) after Massapequa won the Nassau Class AA championship, the collective reaction was: "What!?"

"It became a running joke because we clearly weren't low-key about anything," senior Jessica Ammendola said with a chuckle. "We were pretty obnoxious and always talking about ourselves."

Singing about themselves, too. The group playfully remixed hit songs and their bus rides often turned into dance contests. Even coach Bruce Stegner boogied down a few times after big victories.

And when the Chiefs won a second consecutive state title last month in Cortland, they made certain that everyone within earshot knew it. Which probably included some of the neighboring towns upstate.

"Everything we did was 'swarm, swarm, swarm,' and it kept building," junior Becca White said. "It was fun. We had a lot of confidence and we weren't shy about it."

But beneath that swagger and braggadocio was substance. There was talent, obviously, but resilience and a genuine camaraderie were the true hallmarks.

It was a group so close-knit that one of its adopted rituals was watching before each playoff game the same 30-minute highlight video, a portion of which featured a slideshow of "uglie selfie" photos the players submitted. "We have no problem laughing at ourselves and each other," junior Melanie Hingher said. "Everyone had a sense of humor about it."

There were occasional disputes over playing time, they admitted.

With a roster so deep, potential stars would have to serve as role players. "But we never let that get between us," said Gallagher, who alternated games at goalkeeper with White.

"Everyone had the same goal and once you stepped on the bus, it was about the group and winning for each other."

During the playoffs, All-Long Island defender Meghan McCabe suffered a bone bruise in her right knee, an injury initially feared to have been a damaged ligament. She returned for the county final, playing through pain.

And Massapequa's back line -- "the OG defense squad," a term they coined themselves, naturally -- didn't allow a goal in its six postseason games.

"That's every defender's goal, to not let anything get behind them," said Maggie Shanley, who anchored the unit along with Bianca Furci, McCabe and Hingher. "But to get a shutout in every game was incredible."

There also was the dynamic midfield play of Olivia Stegner, Skylar Vitiello and Mackenzie Palmer.

When Kristen Bischoff, their leading scorer, broke her collarbone during a practice before the state tournament, teammates kept her spirits up, wrote "KB" on their wrists, and vowed to win for her. Hope Breslin scored off a feed from Mikayla Pugliese in the semifinal, and McCabe, fittingly, had the winner in the final.

And when the season concluded -- after the plaques had been hoisted and the Ammendola-led "two-peat" chants eventually faded -- there finally was a quiet moment.

"I hugged Mel and the tears were rolling down my face," Gallagher said. "During that bus ride back, just seeing the looks on everyone's faces, there was no better feeling."

And there it was, for the first time: a low-key Swarm.

More high schools