The sharp progression of the Freeport girls’ lacrosse program under coach Anabel Lopez nearly produced a second straight playoff appearance in a higher conference.
Freeport just missed out on reaching the postseason with a fourth place finish in the 10-team Conference IV, a league the Red Devils ascended to after conquering Conference V last year to reach the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade. The Red Devils finished 5-4 in their new league and stayed in playoff contention down to the wire despite graduating 12 seniors off last year's team that went unbeaten in conference play.
“As a new team in a new conference, we did outstanding,” said Lopez, who also led Freeport to big heights as a player from 2004 to 2008. “We are exactly where we need to be in Conference IV.”
The Red Devils entered the final week of the regular season at 5-2 in league play before dropping a 10-9 heartbreaker to Bellmore-Kennedy on May 3. Kennedy, which finished 8-1 in Conference IV, jumped out to a 8-4 halftime lead and held on for the win despite a six-goal effort from junior attacker Cassie Smith.
Freeport closed the regular season with an 11-7 loss at Baldwin on May 9 in a game that was knotted 3-3 at halftime. Smith registered four goals against the Bruins, who also went 8-1 in the league, including the 100th of her career while goalie Pamela Collado kept the game competitive with 10 saves in net.
The final two regular season losses were preceded by a three-game winning streak capped by an 15-12 victory at Herricks on May 1 in which Smith netted seven goals. Freshman Ava Smith, the younger sister of Cassie, also had a big day with three goals while junior Sejla Omeragic tallied two.
The dominance of Cassie Smith was also on display in an 11-7 victory at Clarke on April 28 in which she scored five goals in a game where Freeport trailed 5-4 at halftime. Amber Marquez also stepped up large with two goals and an assist.
Cassie Smith finished the season with 56 goals and 58 draw controls. Freshman Julia Mendoza-Pinyero also had a breakthrough season with 26 draw controls and six caused turnovers. Both Smith and Mendoza-Pinyero earned all-conference honors.
Lopez, who took over the Freeport program a year removed going winless in 2017, sees great promise for continued growth following a season in which the Red Devils went toe-to-toe with stronger competition. Three of Freeport’s losses were by two goals or less.
“I know we have what it takes to be conference champions again,” Lopez said. “We have to dig deeper next year.”