With a defensive unit like Mount Sinai’s, the girls’ lacrosse team knows it only needs a small cushion to rest easy. The Mustangs’ Class C Long Island championship game was a textbook example, as Hannah Van Middelem’s five stops sparked a potent offensive rush — led by Meaghan Tyrrell’s four goals and two assists — on the way to the team’s third straight Long Island crown. The feat was achieved with a 10-4 win over Wantagh June 4 at Adelphi University.
“I felt good because I know I have one of the best defenses in the country in front of me,” Van Middelem said. “And our offense really stepped up to help.”
The Mustangs’ defenders and offensive players see it a little differently.
“She’s a great goalie,” sophomore Morgan Mitchell said of Van Middelem. “She picks us up. When she makes those big saves and gives us another chance with the ball, we get pumped.”
The senior goalkeeper’s first save of the game following an opening draw win by Wantagh led to Tyrell’s first goal, and the junior attack put Mount Sinai ahead 2-1 minutes later. Senior Veronica Venezia tied the game, 3-3, off a feed from Mitchell. Van Middelem made another save before Mitchell and Venezia — who finished with three goals — scored on assists from Tyrrell in the final two minutes of the first half, for a 6-3 Mustangs lead.
At the 23:05 mark of the second half, Van Middelem intercepted a Wantagh pass across the front of the cage, and deflected a shot with 10:10 left to play during a six-minute span of Warriors possession, until they lost the ball after an attacker stepped in the crease.
“Hannah is always there to make a stop,” senior defender Emily Vengilio said. “She’s the best. When we have a breakdown on defense, I wouldn’t want anyone else in goal.”
Tyrrell, who led the team with 57 goals and 35 assists during the 2017 season, good for sixth on Suffolk County’s points leaderboard, added two more unassisted shots as she circled around the left side of the goal to put Mount Sinai up 8-3.
“You’re trying to shake off the defenders and get open for your teammates,” the junior said. “It’s kind of cool.”
Draw wins and ground ball pickups by senior Rayna Sabella and Tyrrell’s younger sister Emma also helped the team jump out to its lead midway through the second half.
“Once we got the ground balls it led to great offensive opportunities,” Meaghan Tyrrell said. “Whenever a goalie makes a big save in a big moment it’s an intensity increaser. Our defense played confidently, and it showed on the field.”
Mount Sinai head coach Al Bertolone noted the difficulty in achieving the back-to-back-to-back championships.
“I’m really proud of the kids — they dug in there and the culture here is built to last,” he said. “This is the group that’s been in the mix since 2014, so we’ve had a lot of these kids around creating and sustaining the culture.”
Bertolone said the key to the win was limiting the touches of Wantagh’s dynamic offense — highlighted by a quartet of scorers.
“We needed to get in and out of a lot of defenses depending on which one had the ball,” he said. “Defensively, I don’t know if Wantagh matched up with the things we were doing down there. Once we get the lead, with the defense that we have, we’re pretty good.”
Mitchell was also impressed with the defense, led by Vengilio, senior Haley Dillon and twin sisters Meaghan and Kirsten Scutaro, which has held opponents to 3.7 goals per game this season, including two shutouts in April.
“Our cuts, picks and screens were the best they’ve been all season,” Mitchell said. “This senior group, they mean the world to me, and I wanted their last year to be a special one.”
Leah Nonnenmann, who added two goals in the win, said she remembers losing in the county final game her freshman year, and the motivation she had to come back and change the result the following year.
“All I could think about was coming back next season and winning it all,” she said. “It wasn’t an easy ride — we had to work hard — and we continue to prove everyone wrong. We fought for the respect we deserve.”
That longtime mission was accomplished, according to Vengilio.
“It feels better than all the other ones,” she said of the win this season.
Tyrrell agreed: “Three LICs in a row — how much better can it get?”