The seeds of the high school girls lacrosse rivalry between Shoreham-Wading River and Mount Sinai were sown earlier this century. It was during SWR’s heyday, when the Wildcats were regularly winning state championships. SWR collected five state Class C titles — from 2007-10 and then again in 2012.
At the time, an envious Mount Sinai was paying close attention.
“They were actually the program that we chased,” said Mount Sinai coach Al Bertolone.
Those roles have since been reversed. Mount Sinai has won four state Class C crowns (2013, 2015-17). Judging by the way the Mustangs played Wednesday, it is possible they could soon match SWR’s five.
With five goals and two assists from Morgan Mitchell and 16-for-24 success on draw controls, Mount Sinai stormed past visiting SWR, 16-7, in a Suffolk County Class C semifinal. The top-seeded Mustangs (14-2), ranked fifth in Class C in the New York State Sportswriters Association poll, will get a chance to defend their county title when they play No. 2 seed Bayport-Blue Point (15-2) in the final May 30 at Farmingdale State College.
SWR (11-7) got a taste of what Mount Sinai is about early this season when the Mustangs throttled the Wildcats, 15-5. As Bertolone recalled, Mount Sinai built its lead slowly and methodically in that game.
This time, it was like a blitz from the start.
By the time the game was 10 minutes, 38 seconds old, Mount Sinai held a 6-0 lead (with two goals apiece from Mitchell and Gabriella Sartori) and showed no signs of letting up.
“I think we’ve evolved into a very good team,” Bertolone said. “We’re firing on all cylinders right now. I think we’re playing our best lacrosse.”
SWR was the unquestioned underdog, but that didn’t deter the Wildcats in their belief.
“Anything can happen in the playoffs,” said SWR coach Brittany Davis, who played for the 2007 state champion Wildcats as a senior.
She continued: “Do I know this [Mount Sinai] team is good? Do I know they’re fast? Do I know they’re talented? Yeah, but at the same point, I think heart and hustle beat any of that. I never doubt how hard [the Wildcats] work or how hard they hustle.”
For all of SWR’s heart and hustle, though, it wasn’t enough to overcome Mount Sinai’s speed and skill.
After SWR got on the scoreboard with successive goals by Nicolette Constant and Summer Steimel, Mount Sinai put in the next four goals for a 10-2 halftime lead.
“They have a lot of fast girls,” said SWR midfielder Catherine Erb, who scored two second-half goals on free-position shots. “They take opportunities … and they can just bury a shot [from] anywhere.”
Davis said: “It’s really hard to figure out how to break them down. They’re a little bit quicker. Their first step is a little bit faster and we have a hard time defensively.”
Mount Sinai’s draw controls, including 10 by Emma Tyrrell, set the table for its offense. Sartori finished with three goals and one assist. Tyrrell had two goals and one assist. Kaitlin Jensen and Jennifer Markey each scored twice. Molly Laforge added a goal and an assist and Christiana Mastrorocco also scored. Mount Sinai goalie Emily Lamparter stopped eight shots.
“They have a good coach, a good program, a good team, so I knew they were going to come out hard,” said SWR attack Gabby Meli, who netted two goals. “They didn’t really surprise me.”
Graceanne Leonard also scored for SWR. Sarah Sheridan made seven saves.
With only three seniors on its roster (defender Jenna Lesiwicz, midfielder Isabella Meli and Constant), SWR had a “tremendous season,” said Davis.
Gabby Meli sounded inclined to agree. “It was good to make it this far,” she said. “A lot of people were doubting us so it would have been nice to have an upset, but I thought we put a lot into today. It was definitely a challenge. They’re a good team. We have a lot room to improve and we’ll be back next season hungry.”
In the meantime, the rivalry lives on.
“It’s a tremendous rivalry, Shoreham-Wading River and Mount Sinai,” Bertolone said. “You know, Shoreham was the team that we chased when we first got this thing going over here, and it’s always the team that I feel is our most traditional rival. In the latter years over here, it’s been Bayport and Mount Sinai, but for the traditionals like myself, it’s Shoreham.”
Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River defender Summer Steimel keeps a close watch on Mount Sinai midfielder Jennifer Markey in the second half. (Credit: Bob Liepa)