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Leah Nonnenmann

Class C finals victory is Mustangs' fourth in last five years

Rayna Sabella and Leah Nonnenmann celebrate the Mount Sinai girls lacrosse team's third straight Class C state championship win. Photo by Lisa Nonnenmann

By Desirée Keegan

Head coach Al Bertolone is known for telling his team that all it needs is “five seconds of focus.”

These crucial moments of clarity are needed when his Mount Sinai girls’ lacrosse team is fighting for possession during the draw, but this weekend, his team had a lot more to offer than just five seconds. The Mustangs dominated their semifinal and state final opponents to end the weekend taking home the program’s third straight Class C state title.

During a 16-1 rout of Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake in the semifinals, senior Rayna Sabella controlled the circle, winning 17 of 19 draws and scoring three goals off of her possession wins June 9 at SUNY Cortland.

Rayna Sabella maintains possession off the draw. Photo by Lisa Nonnenmann

“It’s all mental game — if you have the attitude from the very beginning that you are going to dominate every aspect of the field, and you try your absolute hardest, there’s no doubt you will be unstoppable,” Sabella said. “I just had to keep telling myself that this draw was mine, and that there was nothing stopping me. I knew it was a big part of the game and it was going to be one of the determining factors of the outcome.”

She was also quick to share credit for the title with her teammates.

“Winning the draws was something Emma [Tyrrell], Jenny [Markey] and I knew we had to focus on the entire game,” Sabella added of her teammates, who were relentless on the edge of the circle, waiting to grab a ground ball. “We could not let our guard down.”

Her teammates noted the 5-foot, 3-inch midfielder’s talents speak louder than her small stature.

“In my opinion, Rayna is the best girl to pick for the draw,” senior Leah Nonnenmann said. “At any given moment she’s ready for anything. No matter how much taller the girl is than her, she always comes up with the ball.”

Junior Meaghan Tyrrell, Emma’s older sister, had four goals and two assists, and senior Veronica Venezia and junior Camryn Harloff each chipped in two goals for Mount Sinai, which had a 23-10 shot advantage.

Meaghan Tyrrell evades defenders as she makes her way to the cage. Photo by Lisa Nonnenmann

The Mustangs opened on an 8-0 run before Sydney Plemenik scored the lone goal for Burnt Hills (12-8). Three goals from Tyrrell in the second half punctuated another 8-0 run for the final result.

Meaghan Tyrrell followed up her showing with five goals and three assists during the Mustangs’ 15-4 win over Honeoye Falls-Lima in the state championship victory June 10. Each of the team’s eight seniors also made contributions while turning in a 10-1 run to blow open the game.

Generally a defense-first team, Mount Sinai (18-2), which outscored its foes 31-5 over the two days upstate, benefitted from an offense that was both relentless and efficient. The Mustangs scored 15 times on 18 shots on goal, showcasing their shooters’ accuracy.

“We play our best offense when we work together and settle into a set offense — moving the ball quick and looking for the perfect shot,” Tyrrell said. “I think this weekend we were able to do all those things successfully to help us score.”

She was also quick to put the focus back on her teammates despite her own performance.

Leah Nonnenmann moves the ball across the field. Photo by Lisa Nonnenmann

“It’s great to know that the team has faith in me to get them the ball so they can pass or shoot, but they move so well cutting and setting up screens, so they really make it easier for me,” she said. “Being on the field is great because you know you’re doing your part whether it be finishing, passing or winning draws. It feels so great to know I helped my team win another state championship.”

The title is not only the third straight for the Mustangs, but the fourth in the last five years.

“We let no one in our heads, we just played our own game and stay locked in the whole time,” said Nonnenmann, who finished the weekend with three goals and two assists, two goals coming in the finals. “We stay calm, we let everyone get settled, and when we feel we’re ready to attack, we go.”

The Mustangs can also strike quickly though, as Nonnenmann intercepted a goalkeeper’s pass and sent a shot sailing into the netting, and Sabella, who notched three goals and two assists over Honeoye Falls-Lima, scored a quick goal after coming down the alley on a draw win to put the Mustangs up 12-3.

For a Mount Sinai program that previously felt overlooked, it’s safe to say other teams can no longer look past a budding dynasty.

“There’s no better feeling than proving people wrong,” Nonnenmann said. “Since 2015 people thought Mount Sinai was going to fall off the map. Every year we’re the underdogs, but always coming up with the win. I’ve never seen a team more steely-eyed than us. We all play our hardest until the very last whistle, and we’re determined to do great things. I hope next year people don’t give Mount Sinai the short end of the stick, because we mean business when we step out onto the field.”

Sabella also looked to the future shortly after securing the state crown.

“The Mount Sinai legacy is not over yet,” she said. “And it won’t be any time soon.”

Mount Sinai’s girls lacrosse team’s 15-4 win over Honeoye Falls-Lima in a state championship-victory June 10 helped the Mustangs bring home the program’s fourth state title in the last five years. Photo by Lisa Nonnenmann

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Mount Sinai edged out Bayport-Blue Point, 9-6, for the program's third consecutive Suffolk County Class C title. Photo by Desirée Keegan

With her team’s early 3-0 lead turning into a 5-3 deficit, Meaghan Tyrrell knew somebody had to take charge.

“I got the ball in our offensive end, and I knew somebody had to do it,” Tyrrell said. “And I just stepped up.”

She had a five-goal performance and two assists to lead Mount Sinai’s girls’ lacrosse team to its third consecutive Class C county crown, with 9-6 win over Bayport-Blue Point May 30. The junior scored unassisted to pull her team within one, 5-4, and assisted on senior Leah Nonnenmann’s game-tying goal less than 30 seconds later. She knew her team was on its way to the Long Island championship as she raised her hands toward the sky following two unassisted goals soon after her assist.

Meaghan Tyrrell moves the ball into Bayport-Blue Point’s zone. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We wanted this so bad,” Tyrrell said. “We know Bayport, we’ve seen them before, but each time it’s different. When they started coming back we realized something had to change.”

The key was not only Tyrrell taking charge, but locking down on defense, and the Mustangs had one of the county’s top defenders in senior Emily Vengilio to do just that.

“We never give up,” Vengilio said. “[Bayport-Blue Point has] a great offense, so we knew our defense had to step up. Three years ago when we lost to them [11-9 in the county final] in the last 10 minutes, we knew what it felt like, so we fought hard to make sure it didn’t happen again.”

Phantom Kelsi LoNigro was the target, and Vengilio and twin sisters Meaghan and Kirsten Scutaro made every step the senior tried to take difficult.

“Our kids are tough — they’re all veteran players,” Mount Sinai head coach Al Bertolone said. “We tried to take [Kelsi LoNigro] out of the mix because she’s a catalyst for their offense.

We took their best punches. At the end of the day you have to have kids that fight, and they fought.”

Mount Sinai jumped ahead 3-0 with two goals from senior Veronica Venezia. Tyrrell assisted on the first and scored the second goal of the game. But Bayport-Blue Point picked up steam to tie the game by halftime. Nonnenmann said her teammates were in their own heads, including herself — even while racing toward the circle to grab a pass from Tyrrell for her goal that made it 5-5.

Meaghan Tyrrell scores. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I was thinking ‘I should get this,’” she said. “I had a lot of pressure on my shoulders. But when it was me and the goalie I knew I had it.”

Mount Sinai’s objective just a couple of years ago was to “prove people wrong.” Now, the Mustangs are synonymous with championship-level lacrosse.

“We’d always been overlooked, but that’s changed now,” Vengilio said. “We wanted to make the full circle. Each win feels great, but this one especially. Now we’re definitely on top.”

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Award recognizes best girls' lacrosse team in Suffolk County

The Mount Sinai girls' lacrosse team earned the Founder's Cup after claiming it's second consecutive Class C state title. Photo from Al Bertolone

Mount Sinai is still dominating the girls’ lacrosse world.

For the second time since 2013, the Mustangs earned the Long Island Metropolitan Lacrosse Foundation’s Founder’s Cup, which is given to the best girls’ high school lacrosse team in Suffolk County.

“This team definitely overcame adversity to get back to where we wanted to,” sophomore Camryn Harloff said. “Considering we lost huge stars on our team, everyone wrote us off and never thought we could make it up there again, so this season has definitely meant a lot to us, showing everyone that we still have it in us. And we aren’t done yet.”

The Mustangs’ motto was “clear eyes, full hearts can’t lose,” and the girls stayed true to that, losing just three games — one being a Division II matchup — the entire season.

“It was an awesome feeling knowing the cup was back in our possession,” senior Caroline Hoeg said. “This final season is bittersweet. Leaving such an amazing team, season and career behind, back in Mount Sinai, makes me upset, but it makes me realize how lucky I truly am. I know there are great things ahead, but I will forever remember this team and season, and I know they’re going to keep continuing to prove people wrong.”

The Mount Sinai girls' lacrosse team won the Founder's Cup, which is given to the best girls' lacrosse team in Suffolk County. Photo from Al Bertolone
The Mount Sinai girls’ lacrosse team won the Founder’s Cup, which is given to the best girls’ lacrosse team in Suffolk County. Photo from Al Bertolone

After all the doubt, the girls topped stiff competition in Bayport-Blue Point and Cold Spring Harbor for the Suffolk County and Long Island titles, and took that momentum all the way to the state finals, where the team won its second consecutive title.

“It is a great honor and shows that hard work pays off,” junior Hannah Van Middelem said of winning the cup. “This season has been very special. We really came together as a team and played our hearts out.”

Harloff said her teammates stepped up and rose to the challenge, taking on leadership roles and doing what they needed to do to make this season go as smoothly as it did.

“Meaghan Tyrrell was a huge aspect in our offense, Emily Vengilio was a brick on defense and especially Hannah Van Middelem in net,” she said. “And of course, we can’t forget how clutch Erica Shea was on the draw. She came up big in the times that we needed her.”

Junior Leah Nonnenmann said that like head coach Al Bertolone said, the team doesn’t rebuild, it reloads, and that’s exactly what the girls did.

“My teammates and I were so anxious sitting at the awards dinner waiting for the winner to be announced and when it was us, you could see the excitement in all our faces,” she said. “And when you looked at our parents, you could see how proud they all were.”

Tyrrell said the entire experience and the feelings that come along with it are hard to put into words, but she’s proud of her team’s accomplishments, and is also looking forward to what lies ahead.

“It is one of the most honored awards a team can be given, so we were very proud of ourselves,” she said. “This season has meant so much to me because everyone thought that after our past seniors graduated, we would fall off the face of the lacrosse world. Coming back and working so hard to prove that we can be as great, and getting back up to states and winning just completed our season perfectly. It makes me excited to see what next season brings. And the season after that.”

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“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.”

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Mustangs score five unanswered goals in second half to secure 6-5 win over Shoreham

Mount Sinai teammates huddle around Meaghan Tyrrell after she scores what would be the game-winning goal. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Mount Sinai’s motto this season has been “proving people wrong.”

And again, the girls’ lacrosse team did just that. Despite being down 5-1 at halftime, the Mustangs rallied back to score five unanswered goals en route to a 6-5 win over Shoreham-Wading River in the game’s final minutes Monday.

Mount Sinai's Caroline Hoeg scores over Shoreham's Sophia Triandafils. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Mount Sinai’s Caroline Hoeg scores over Shoreham’s Sophia Triandafils. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“It was a great turnaround,” Mount Sinai head coach Al Bertolone said. “Everything that you wanted to have happen in the first half happened in the second half. It was the way I thought we could play.”

But the girls came out flat.

While the Mustangs had trouble getting started, the Wildcats were off to the races. Isabella Meli and Erin Triandafils tacked on two goals each, and Mikayla Dwyer scored once while Jesse Arline assisted twice, to put Shoreham up 5-0.

With 3:28 left in the first half, Mount Sinai senior midfielder Caroline Hoeg dodged opponents as she made her way up the middle and scored unassisted to break the ice for her team.

“I think we started off rocky, but we came out at halftime and knew what we had to do,” she said. “Everyone knew they had to play for the girl next to them and we played our hearts out.”

Mount Sinai's Camryn Harloff reaches between Shoreham defenders for the loss ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Mount Sinai’s Camryn Harloff reaches between Shoreham defenders for the loss ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Hoeg helped win possession off the draw to open the second, and from the left side of the cage, passed to junior midfielder Lisa Nonnenmann who scored through traffic up top.

“It’s a gut-check time,” Bertolone said of his team being down. “I told them, ‘are we just going to let someone come in and push us around? Are we going to respond?’ And they did.”

At the 11:12 mark, sophomore attack Meaghan Tyrrell took matters into her own hands when she swiveled around the back of the cage and fired a shot across the front of the net to the far left side. Minutes later, she passed the ball to Hoeg up the middle, who beat out defenders and bounced in a shot that close the gap, 5-4.

“At halftime, our coach was pep-talking us and our captains were great,” she said. “When we came out we knew we had to win the draws to come back, so that was our motive.”

Bertolone called for a timeout and before sending his team back onto the field, the girls shouted “heart,” and continued to play with a lot of it.

The Mustangs won possession off the next draw, and although Nonnenmann had a free position shot soon after, she failed to capitalize. At 3:50, she got another shot, and made it count, tying the game 5-5.

Mount Sinai's Erica Shea makes her way around Shoreham's Isabella Cortes. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Mount Sinai’s Erica Shea makes her way around Shoreham’s Isabella Cortes. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“It was nerve-wracking but we’ve been working really hard this season and it was just great to get out there after we dug ourselves into a little bit of a hole to really work all together, settle the ball and pull it out,” she said. “I think we practice more than anyone else around, we get down to business and it helps us get the job done.”

With 2:06 left on the clock, the Mustangs proved that hard work pays off. From outside, Hoeg passed to Tyrrell at the front of the net, who bounced a shot into the open right side after a goalkeeper misstep, for the 6-5 lead.

“Caroline knew I was open, she knew that was the play, and I saw the goalie’s stick come out and I thought she was going to save it, but I got in there, went around her and shot,” she said. “It was very nerve-racking, but it also felt really great.”

Bertolone called for another timeout, and told his team, “You don’t want to lose this after coming all the way back. We need to win this draw.”

The Mustangs won the draw, and despite turning the ball over, forced a turnover and held the ball until time expired.

Mount Sinais' Leah Nonnenmann makes her way to the cage ahead of Shoreham's Erin Triandafils and Megan Daly. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Mount Sinais’ Leah Nonnenmann makes her way to the cage ahead of Shoreham’s Erin Triandafils and Megan Daly. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The 2015 state championship-winning team is hoping to get back to Cortland this year, and the team’s resiliency may take them there.

“We practice for days like this,” Hoeg said. “This is what we have to do if we want to get to the next level and we want to get back upstate. We knew that we all had to come together and show people that we can come back from losing our top players and prove people wrong. That was the motto this year — coming out and doing what people think we cant.”