Third-year Wantagh head coach Robyn Rooney hugged several of her players following the Warriors heartbreaking 9-8 loss to Manhasset in the Nassau Class C final on June 17.
It marked an emotional end for Wantagh’s 11 seniors who fell just short of their quest for a county title one year after having the 2020 season wiped out due to the pandemic.
“When you leave it all out on the field it makes the ending that much harder,” said Rooney. “It was an emotional season from day one dealing with Covid, injuries, huge wins and losses and fighting our way through arguably the toughest schedule in the country.”
The Warriors, who split with Manhasset during the regular season, rallied from an 8-3 deficit early in the second half with four straight goals capped by an Eva Ingrilli score assisted by Madison Aliamo with 11:51 left. After a Manhasset answer, Madison Taylor struck for her third goal of the game with 9:13 remaining, cutting the deficit to 9-8.
Taylor’s shot attempt to tie the game late against heavy defensive pressure was saved by Manhasset goalie Finely Collins with 1:15 remaining before the Indians ran out the clock to preserve their third straight county title. The Northwestern commit Taylor’s historic junior season was capped with 56 goals, 28 assists, 113 draw controls, 30 caused turnovers and 58 groundballs. She was named All-American.
“This is a kid who gets it done on every ounce of that field,” said Rooney of the junior midfielder, who recorded 47 goals and 59 draw controls as a freshman in 2019 when Wantagh also reached the county championship stage. “She is just at another level.”
Wantagh fell behind 7-3 at halftime after Manhasset’s Grace Gately scored with just 0.4 seconds left. The Warriors mounted their comeback starting with a Jillian Balkunas goal with 17:19 left followed by a Shae Insigna tally just 34 seconds later cutting the deficit to 8-5. Ensuing back-to-back tallies by Leena Mousa and Ingrilli made the score 8-7 heading into the home stretch.
Manhasset dominated time of possession in the first half, but its offense was limited in the game’s final 25 minutes to just two goals and only one over the last 20:30 thanks to stout defense from MaKenna Boutin, Reilly Brady, Emma Gonsowski and Olivia Benedetto. Sophomore goalie Nicole Schaumloff registered eight first half saves to keep Wantagh within striking distance.
The Rutgers-bound Boutin exemplified the Warrior's fighting spirit this season when she returned from a broken ankle suffered a Wantagh girls volleyball playoff match in late April to make her season debut June 1. Boutin is part of a large senior class that will always hold a special place in the heart of Rooney from guiding her debut season in 2019 as sophomores to battling back from the disappointment of last year’s cancelled season for a memorable final high school campaign.
“They set the tone for the future of Wantagh lacrosse,” she said. “They helped create our Wantagh identity and lived by it every day on and off that field.”
Balkunas was Honorable Mention All-American and Academic All-American. Insinga, Boutin and Shannon Sullivan were selected as Nassau County Academic All-Americans.