Last year, the girls’ lax team topped Staten Island Academy twice during the regular season before falling to the Tigers in a home semifinal match-up. After the Bears beat the Tigers twice this season, including a 17-4 win on Monday, the stage was set for a chance at redemption.
Yesterday afternoon, the Tigers assured the Bears within the first five minutes that they were not just a prop in a senior day celebration by taking a 2-0 lead at the 19:16 mark. But the resilient Blue & White responded with a six-goal run that left them in control for the remainder of the game. Alexis Savage knotted the score with a free position strike and a man-up goal at the 13:44 mark. Morgan Ruggieri followed with what felt like a huge momentum play when she intercepted a pass from the goalie and scored with 11:29 left to give the Brook a lead they would not relinquish. Michelle Xuan showed her senior leadership by netting a free position goal less than a minute later before Ruggieri found Sydneyanna Giardini on a curl for a goal and Alexandra Puopolo connected on another free position that left the Brook ahead 6-2 with 7:26 left.
From there the squads traded jabs as the Tigers refused to simply roll over. They ended the Bear run with a draw control and score. Mia Trama answered a minute later by finding the top corner. Staten Island punched back 18 seconds later with a draw control and score before Natalia Pagano scored on a bounce shot while falling down to push the Bear advantage to 8-4. A little more breathing room came when Savage found Pagano for a doorstep goal, but the Tigers provided the final score of the half on a man-up strike as the Brook took a 9-5 edge into the half.
The message at halftime was, ‘We’re in control. Keep playing your game,’ and the Bears roared out of the break with two straight goals thanks to a Puopolo free position score and a Ruggieri strike that gave the Brook a 12-5 lead. But Staten Island would continue to hang around thanks to execution on draws and tenacity on 50/50 balls. The Tigers pulled within 6-12 and then 7-13, after a Savage drive and score, but the defense held them in check over the final 9:48 and snuffed out any hopes of a miracle rally when Emily Berger stoned two point blank shots with 3:15 remaining. Savage put the exclamation point on the 14-7 win with 2:19 on the clock.
As the final seconds ticked off, the Bears flooded Fitch Field in a cathartic celebration, having conqured another mountain on their upward rise. A squad that has already made history this season with the first regular season championship and undefeated league season in team history can now say they are the first Stony Brook girls’ lacrosse team to win a playoff game and earn a place in the championship.
They will look to take another step on their historic journey when they face Long Island Lutheran on Friday at 3:30pm at Cantiague Park in the PSAA Championship.