“We wanted to prove everyone wrong that doubted us, and we did.”
That’s what Mount Sinai junior goalkeeper Hannah Van Middelem had to say following her Mustangs’ 6-5 win over previously undefeated Bayport-Blue Point Tuesday, which earned the girls’ lacrosse team the Suffolk County Class C title.
Van Middelem came up with nine key saves to help her team to victory.
“I felt really confident because my defense was channeling outside shots, which helped me,” she said. “Our defense played great and the draw circle was amazing. We got almost every single ground ball.”
Van Middelem made her first save of the game just 30 seconds into the contest and senior attack Rebecca Lynch made the first goal off a free position shot. A Bayport-Blue Point yellow card left the team down a player, and sophomore attack Camryn Harloff took advantage of the penalty when she scored off an assist by junior attack and midfielder Leah Nonnenmann.
“We kept cool, calm and collected and took it like every other day,” Nonnenmann said. “We did our work, we adjusted to everything we needed to, we did it all. Communication was key and never letting our heads go down, no matter what.”
After Bayport-Blue Point’s Kerrigan Miller scored to cut the deficit, she forced a turnover, and a yellow card on a slash left Mount Sinai down one for two minutes.
Despite missing a player, Van Middelem wouldn’t let up the lead that easily, batting away a free position shot before Kelsi Lonigro evened it up for Bayport with 12:49 left in the half.
With 8:28 left, Bayport scored again, but a penalty prior to waved off the goal. Harloff attempted the next shot, but the ball bounced off the right post. Less than a minute later, senior midfielder Caroline Hoeg scored on a free position shot to give the Mustangs a 3-2 lead.
“It was all intensity,” she said. “We all knew what we had to do, we game-planned amazing, our coaches were on top of everything we had to do to beat them and we came out here and that’s exactly what we did.”
But Miller and Lonigro, two of the Phantoms’ strongest players, also weren’t going to go down without a fight. They scored back-to-back goals to give their team a 4-3 advantage heading into the halftime break.
“It’s a very intense rivalry, but it’s a good rivalry,” Mount Sinai head coach Al Bertolone said. “I’ve had great wins, and this is probably one of the best. We had a tough nonleague schedule, we lost to them straight-up the first time and we did some different things this time and the goalie played great. She’s an All-American type, which is what you need.”
Hoeg said despite the lead loss, her teammates knew to keep their heads in the game.
“Once they got the lead, we were a little down, but we knew we had to pick it right back up and come out here hard and do what we do,” she said.
Harloff had a shot saved to open the second half and Van Middelem made two straight saves, her second of which led to a Mustangs goal. After she passed the ball to Harloff, the ball was carried up to the front of the cage, where it was passed to junior midfielder and attack Rayna Sabella, who scored the tying goal.
Nonnenmann, trying to get a goal all afternoon, finally hit her mark when she swiveled around defenders in front of the cage and dumped in the go-ahead goal.
“I was a little off the first couple of tries and I was getting in my head, but I cleared everyone out, played my game and I finally pulled it out,” she said. “We’ve been working so hard and the hours and hours of practice we put into it was all for this.”
With 4:53 left to play, sophomore attack Meaghan Tyrrell passed the ball to Hoeg from 15 yards out, and a good goal gave the team a 6-4 advantage, despite Bayport’s defense being tough to penetrate.
“Once we got the lead, we knew it was ours,” Hoeg said. “From the huddles to the girls on the sideline, everyone cheering, we knew it was ours and we weren’t going to let it slip away.”
Bayport then wound up with the ball. The first of several free position shots was high and Van Middelem tipped the second away and made a save on the third to keep the game in the Mustangs’ favor.
Mount Sinai mostly maintained possession thereafter, but the stifling Phantoms defense forced a turnover that led to a breakaway goal with 41.6 seconds left to play.
Another Bayport yellow card left the Mustangs in control, and Tyrrell held onto the ball until the clock expired.
“This one is special,” Bertolone said. “We battled adversity, we did everything right. We’re young in some spots, but a lot of those kids were on the field last year. Hoeg played very well, she was tough all day, [senior midfielder Erica] Shea has been excellent all year. The kids really stepped up and came through for us.”
After losing to Bayport 10-2 in the regular season, and after a goal with one second left in the game gave the Mustangs a 10-9 win over Shoreham-Wading River in the semifinals, the girls now know anything is possible. Mount Sinai, at 15-3, has won eight straight games and looks to take the streak all the way back to the state finals, which the team won last season.
Mount Sinai faces Cold Spring Harbor in the Long Island championship on June 5 at 2:30 p.m. at a location still yet to be decided.
“This game helps us going forward,” Van Middelem said. “We felt really confident — we just believed in ourselves. We still feel confident. We can take it all the way.”