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Wantagh poised for growth


New Wantagh girls’ lacrosse coach Robyn Pastuch is excited to take on the next chapter of her young coaching career.

Pastuch, who helped build up the Hewlett girls lacrosse program launched a decade ago, is now looking to turn Wantagh into a perennial power. The former standout lacrosse player at UConn and Calhoun High School takes over a Wantagh team hit with key graduation losses after reaching the county finals for the fourth time in five years.

“It’s different to come into something with so much tradition,” said Pastuch, who was an assistant coach at Hewlett when the school fist debuted as a varsity program before taking over as head coach. “There is a lot of talent in this area and I’m excited to get started.”

Wantagh lost five senior starters off last year’s team that fell to Cold Spring Harbor in the Class C title game. With the new roster largely comprised of underclassmen, Pastuch has turned to senior defenders Danielle Carson and Angela Labenberg to fill the leadership void as co-captains. The USC-bound Carson and Labenberg, who will play collegiately at Vassar anchor a defensive unit that also features junior Allie Alaimo and sophomore Makeena Boutin.

“They have been exceptional,” Pastuch said of her captains. “I don’t think you can find a better defensive core.”

The Wantagh defense has gotten tested early on against teams with major offensive firepower including nationally-second ranked Manhasset, who was limited to six first half goals in the Lady Warriors’ 15-5 setback on April 4. Goalies Meghan Kirk and Gianna Surace have split time in the cage.

The offense has gotten a spark from freshman midfielder Madison Taylor, who leads the team in goals and draw controls. Sophomore Jill Balkunas and Taylor are also scoring threats at midfield with both registering three goals in Wantagh’s 9-8 win at South Side on March 30.

Attackers Dylan Small and Shae Insinga have become offensive weapons close to the net. Insinga, a sophomore, broke out with four goals in Wantagh’s 15-7 non-league win against Deer Park on March 20. The junior Small delivered in the clutch, tallying the winning goal with 11 seconds left to break an 11-11 tie in South Side triumph.

Wantagh is next in action on Thursday at Suffolk County power Northport before traveling to face Catholic power Saint. Anthony’s on April 16 with opening draw at noon. The Lady Warriors return home on April 29 against St. John the Baptist at 4:30 p.m.

The Lady Warriors have tackled one of the toughest regular season schedules in the nation so far against Manhasset, Garden City and Massapequa. Pastuch is hoping a grueling slate will pay dividends for her young team in the upcoming Class C playoffs where Wantagh along with Lynbrook, Locust Valley and North Shore will be fighting for a chance to meet favorite Cold Spring Harbor on the championship stage.

“We’re rising to the occasion,” she said. “We’re playing for May.”