Tuckers fall short in bid to repeat as girls lacrosse county champs

If you did not attend the Suffolk County Class D girls lacrosse final Wednesday, you missed one heck of a confrontation between two talented teams.

Like two prize fighters slugging it out for three and a half quarters, Mattituck/Greenport/Southold and Babylon traded goal for goal.

“We came in fired up. We knew we wanted this so bad,” sophomore midfielder Gianna Calise said. “We fought the whole entire game until the end. It was a great back-and-forth game. It was a game you want to watch.”

Midway through the final period, however, the second-seeded Panthers scored four consecutive goals to turn a one-goal deficit into an 11-8 victory over the top-seeded Tuckers to secure Babylon’s first county crown. The Panthers (10-7) will face the winner of Tuesday’s Nassau County final between Cold Spring Harbor and Carle Place for the Long Island championship at Longwood on June 1.

Needless to say, it was an emotional defeat for the Mattituck players, several of whom left the field with misty eyes. As defending county champions, the Tuckers (11-6) had hoped to make it two titles in a row.

“It was upsetting,” said co-captain Sophia Knudsen, one of six seniors on the team who will graduate next month. “It’s the last time I’m going to play with them. We wanted to come out on top, especially after the boys losing. We wanted to show we were the better team.”

Head coach Logan McGinn waxed philosophical after the team’s seven-game winning streak was snapped.

“I thought we played well, I thought they played really well, too,” he said. “Unfortunately in life there’s a winner and loser and we came up with the wrong side of it today. But it happens. I told the girls it doesn’t take away how proud I am of them for this year; 11-5 [in the regular season] is something to definitely be proud of.”

Wednesday’s back and forth battle saw four lead changes and was tied five times.

Calise, who put the Tuckers on her back with another virtuoso performance, recording five goals and one assist, turned on her defender an beat goaltender Addison Costa at 5:29 of the fourth quarter to give the Tuckers an 8-7 edge.

Things looked good for the North Fork side.

But Babylon’s Peyton Logue-Boyd won the ensuing faceoff against sophomore attacker Claire McKenzie to start the Panthers’ surge. They tallied four successive goals within a 2:24 span to turn the game on its head.

Only 43 seconds after Calise’s goal, Brooke Kenedy came from behind the cage to beat senior goalie Aiko Fujita for the equalizer. Sophomore midfielder Lily Krollage, who led Babylon with five goals, also came from behind the net to score for what turned out to be the game-winner at 6:55. Krollage and Logue-Boyd added insurance goals at 7:49 and 11:35, respectively.

“They got a few on us and we just stopped talking,” said Tuckers midfielder Allison Heidtmann, who finished with two goals. “It kind of just all [happened] really fast. It wasn’t any of our fault. It was a team effort.”

Fujita had her theory. “I think it just came to a matter of the defense that we changed and adjusting to that,” she said. “Towards the end of the fourth quarter, I think a lot of us got a little bit tired, which isn’t anything to be ashamed of.”

Added Knudsen: “I guess they saw us getting momentum. They just wanted to crush it.”

Calise, who finished the season with a team-high 53 goals, played like a young woman possessed, consistently finding the net under pressure.

With one second remaining in the first half, the sophomore connected off a free-standing goal after a foul, to close the deficit to 6-5. With 42.9 seconds left in the third quarter, she beat Costa from point-blank range for a 7-7 deadlock.

“I missed the last game due to an injury,” Calise said. “As a way to repay them, I thought it would be the best thing I could do to fire up this game and give it my all.”

Which she did.

“Gianna’s incredible and we have six or seven 10th graders that can just score,” McGinn said, rattling off several names, including midfielders Page Kellershon, Grace Quinn, Olivia Zehil, McKenzie and Heidtmann.

“They’re the kind of a force to be reckoned with. It makes me excited.”

In other words, the Tuckers aren’t about to go away and plan to return to the final next year and beyond.

“This definitely is not the last time you will see us or hear about us,” McGinn said. “Sometimes a little adversity is good for you.”