The fighting spirit that propelled Wantagh girls’ lacrosse into the county finals was on display until the final whistle of the 2018 season.
With top-seeded Cold Spring Harbor stalling late during the May 31 Class C championship at Adelphi’s Motamed Field and the game out of reach, the Lady Warriors showed determination in forcing turnovers and scoring the final two goals. First-year head coach Lauren Schwalje said the late-game tenacity in a season-ending loss 17-4 loss demonstrated why Wantagh was in position for a repeat county title after a slow start to the spring.
“I’m so proud of how we competed,” Schwalje said. “We had a tremendous group of girls this season.”
After dropping the first two games of the regular season, Wantagh defeated Cold Spring Harbor by a 7-6 score in a March 29 meeting, which would end up being just one of two Lady Seahawks defeats this season. The rematch went far differently, however, with Cold Spring Harbor jumping out to a 7-0 lead and 12-2 at halftime. The Lady Warriors had limited offensive possessions throughout the evening due largely to losing 16 of 22 draw controls.
“We didn’t get the ball very much on offense,” Schwalje said.
Wantagh reached the championship stage for a finals rematch with Cold Spring Harbor after an 11-10 semifinal against North Shore at Adelphi on May 21 in which the Lady Warriors battled back from a 9-6 second half deficit. Senior midfielder Kayla Conway and freshman attacker Sabrina Caruso led the offensive charge with both registering three goals and an assist. The Pace University-bound Conway then followed up the semifinal performance with all four of Wantagh’s goals in the county finals.
“She is a fierce competitor” said Schwalje of Conway. “She raises the level of players around her.”
Conway along with fellow senior captains Catherine Russo and Anna Kaufmann along with junior captain Danielle Carson fueled Wantagh’s postseason run after entering the playoffs with a 4-7 record while facing one of the toughest regular season schedules on Long Island. Goalie Katie Conklin and attacker Caitlyn Kearns also provided valuable senior leadership for the younger players throughout the spring.
“This team loved and cared for each other and that is why we went as far as we did,” Schwalje said. “It was a special group.”
Schwalje, a 2011 St. Anthony’s graduate who played college lacrosse at Georgetown and Stony Brook, is already looking forward to gearing up for her second season as coach. The Lady Warriors graduate five, but return important contributors from this year’s run to the county finals like Carson and Caruso who are already motivated for a return to the championship stage.
“The offseason is the most important part of lacrosse,” Schwalje said. “I told my returners that the 2019 season starts now.”