Yesterday afternoon, the girls’ lacrosse team topped Portledge, 13-2, to secure the outright PSAA regular season championship, the first of any kind in team history. The program began in 1993 and folded in 2006 without a single winning season or playoff appearance, though several outstanding individuals went on to play at the college level. The program was reborn in 2016 and reentered varsity competition in 2019. Now, in just their third season as a varsity team (discounting the 2020 COVID-shortened season), the Bears have reached the top of their league and are looking for much more.
A Morgan Ruggieri free position goal opened the scoring at the 22:54 mark. Alexandra Puopolo doubled the Bear lead 18 seconds later on a bounce shot from the left side, but Portledge halved their deficit just over a minute later. From there, the Blue & White defense showed its claws and held the Panthers scoreless for the next 40:15 of game time as Emily Berger stoned multiple point blank shots and Christy Eugene led a speedy, aggressive backfield core that scooped seemingly every ground ball and made interior passing an impossible task.
With the defense locking down the visitors, the offense gorged itself on lengthy possessions that wore down the Portledge defense and led to a flurry of first half goals. Alexis Savage, Long Island’s leading private school scorer, found the top left corner at the 17:19 mark and added a free position goal with 10:51 left. Ruggieri found the top shelf with a laser less than two minutes later and added a sidearm goal with 7:12 remaining as the Bear lead swelled to 6-1. Savage added another goal 40 seconds later before Mia Trama and Sydneyanna Giardini contributed back-breaking scores in the final two minutes as the Brook carried a formidable 9-1 advantage into the break.
The Bears scored the first two goals of the second half to run their scoring surge to nine goals as Savage ripped twine on a lefty shot before Ruggieri found a cutting Giardini for another goal. Portledge scored their second and final goal with 6:02 left, but Natalia Pagano and Savage each scored before the horn to cap the historic victory.
Savage led the way with 5 goals and 4 assists while Ruggieri notched 3 goals and 2 assists. Giardini (2G), Pagano (1G/ 1A), Trama (1G), and Puopolo (1G) rounded out a Bear attack that Portledge simply had no answer for. While the offense was sharp, the story of the game was the Blue & White defense, anchored by Berger’s 12 saves. Eugene played the best game of her career, flying around the field, chasing down attackers, physically dominating ground ball battles, and carrying the ball upfield like never before. She came with a fire yesterday and it fueled her backfield team of Georgia Apazidis, Nikki Carlo, and Tiffany Akinyoade that scooped up 10 ground balls, deflected numerous passes, and forced a bevy of turnovers, never allowing the Panthers to get comfortable for a single possession.
The Bears are back in action tomorrow as they travel to Staten Island Academy for a PSAA match-up.