By Bill Landon
The seed of there being a Port Jefferson girls’ lacrosse team was planted by former athletic director Deb Ferry and has began to grow with current leader Danielle Turner. According to head coach Allie Franklin, three seniors, who have been playing the sport since they were little, were the catalyst for this new varsity team.
What’s impressive about the Royals, who are among five teams in Class D, is that they finished fourth this year, narrowly missing the postseason by one spot.
“You don’t see many [first-season] teams nowadays, so to know that you’re part of the very first team, it’s an accomplishment,” said senior Clare O’Connor, one of those three seniors who was also part of the two-time championship-winning soccer team. “And we do have some very strong players.”
Port Jefferson wrapped up its inaugural season on the road May 9 against division powerhouse Bayport-Blue Point. The Royals competed in Division III and, despite it being their first season, managed to win two games and narrowly lost another by a point.
After a nail-biting finish March 24 against Copiague, where they lost 14-13, the Royals breakthrough performance came six days later when they defeated McGann-Mercy, 18-7, at home to ink the first-ever varsity lacrosse victory. From there, they faced the top teams in the division, but notched a second win May 1, a 13-9 win over visiting Hampton Bays.
For freshman Sophia Knapp, who was called up to be a part of the team, it’s an honor to be starting out her high school career with a new team.
“[I was so excited] when I found out I was going to be able to play with people that I played with in PAL,” Knapp said. “I was nervous coming into the actual game, but once I got out there I felt that I was at home again, so it’s very special for me to be part of this team.”
The significance of the history-making season showcased this year wasn’t’ lost on Alexa Wakefield, another senior who helped kickstart the program.
“It means a lot honestly — we started with the PAL teams and we all stuck with it,” she said. “And all of the younger girls are getting a lot better so in the next few years we’ll have a solid team and I’m very excited about that.”
Franklin said she’s encouraged by her younger players, and with the prospect of a dedicated goalkeeper — something they didn’t have this season.
“I think the big piece next year is that we’ll have someone who’s a true goalie,” she said. “This year we had four field players stepping into that role rotating through and that was difficult for us, but next year [we’ll have] somebody who has been in the pads, and that’s their true position. That will help us tremendously.”
Besides her, the final senior, Corinne Scannell, is looking forward to seeing what eighth-grader Katelynn Johnston can do.
“She’s just good,” she said. “I can see her being the next leader of our program.”
Scannell, already a three-sport athlete already playing on the state championship-winning soccer team and history-making Long Island championship basketball team, continues to make history with the school.
“We’ve been playing since we were little, so it’s definitely exciting to pioneer it,” she said. “I’d say that the best part of it is being on the field — all of the teams practice there — and it’s really cool to see all the younger girls playing,” she said. “Yeah, we had a few rough games this year, but we’re paving the way for them to succeed.”