Wantagh surges to county finals


A season of growth for the Wantagh girls’ lacrosse team ended just short of a county title.

Wantagh rallied from a seven-goal second half deficit against top-seeded Cold Spring Harbor before falling 10-7 in the Class C finals at Adelphi’s Motamed Field on May 30. The near upset against Cold Spring Harbor came two months after the Lady Warriors fell 16-8 in the third game of the season to the reigning Class C champions and signified the strides made throughout the spring under first-year head coach Robyn Pastuch.

“I told them after the game that this is just the start of something great,” said Pastuch, who was a longtime head coach at Hewlett before taking over the Wantagh program. “I told them that this is just the start of greatness and we haven’t even reached our potential.”

The resiliency Wantagh displayed early on in the season facing the toughest teams on Long Island was evident on the county finals stage with the Warriors battling back after giving up the game’s first six goals and then staring at a 9-2 deficit in the second half.  Goals by Sabrina Caruso with 4:56 left and Madison Taylor 30 seconds later capped a 5-0 Wantagh run to the lead to 9-7. Cold Spring Harbor was then able to bleed clock however after winning the ensuing draw before tallying a late insurance goal.

“I told them one goal at a time,” said Pastuch of the second half spark. “I think they started to believe that they were supposed to be in this game.”

Wantagh reached the county finals for a third straight year and fifth time in six years thanks to a dramatic 8-7 semifinal win against third-seeded North Shore on May 23 capped by Jill Balkunas free position goal as time expired.  The winning goal was preceded moments earlier by a tying goal from Madison Taylor with 1:05 left and Makenna Boutin winning the ensuing draw control to set up the final possession.

“That was a tooth and nail battle and we were fortunate to come out on top,” said Pastuch of the North Shore win, which featured 11 saves from junior goalie Gianna Surace.

The Lady Warriors opened the postseason with a commanding 18-8 quarterfinal win against Bethpage that features four goals apiece from Shannon Sullivan and Taylor. Wantagh entered the playoffs winning three of its final four regular season games to claim the two seed.

While Pastuch will return much of this year’s team next spring, she credits the five graduating seniors of Carson, Angela Labenberg, Ashley Gendels, Marykate Del Gais and Meghan Kirk with establishing a strong future foundation for the program. Pastuch said the 2019 senior class were leaders on and off the field and maintained positive attitudes amid the unique challenge of having four varsity coaches in four years

“They are just spectacular and everyone brought something else to the table,” Pastuch said. “I can’t say enough about this group of girls.”