Lakeland Beats Garden City, 2-1, Headed to NYS Final 4; Eight-Time Reigning NYS Champion Hornets to Face Burnt Hills in State Semis
By Tony Pinciaro
Lakeland High was playing in its ninth consecutive regional final against a familiar opponent. However, the annual game with the opposition came earlier than anticipated.
In order for the Hornets to earn a trip to the final four in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class B Field Hockey Championship, they would have to topple Section 8 titlist, Garden City. This was unfamiliar territory for both teams because Lakeland and Garden City have either played for the state title or in a semifinal during Lakeland’s state-championship run.
According to Lakeland coach Sharon Sarsen, Lakeland played Garden City in a regional final in 2013 at White Plains.
“I think we were all a little shocked that it came a little bit earlier than we expected,” senior and goalie Cassie Halpin said. “Going in, we expected a close game and that’s what we got.”
Garden City had the early momentum, grabbing a quick lead. It was only the second time Lakeland trailed this season. The other time was to Mamaroneck, also 1-0. However, Lakeland scored twice in the second half for a 2-1 victory over its annual nemesis at Patchogue-Medford High School.
This followed up a 4-0 triumph over Rye in the Section 1 Class B final and a 6-0 victory over Somers in a Class B semifinal.
Lakeland, 21-0 this season, advances to its ninth consecutive state final four and 12th since 2003. The Hornets will play Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (Section 2) in a semifinal, 1:30 p.m., Saturday (Nov. 11) at Maine-Endwell High School. The other semi, at 3:30 p.m., has Pittsford Mendon (Section 5) playing Vestal (Section 4). The semifinal winners will play for the state title, 2:30 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 12.
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake defeated Camden, 3-1, in the Section 2 championship game behind two goals by Christine Pedone. It was the sixth consecutive sectional title for Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, 14-5 this season.
Despite the slim halftime deficit, Lakeland was not concerned.
“During our halftime talk, we all took a deep breath and realized we had come back from 1-0 deficit, before,” said Halpin, who will attend North Carolina in September and play field hockey. “We made a slight adjustment on our press and corner defense and it helped, immediately.
Fellow captain Kelsey McCrudden evened the score early in the second half, then Julianna Cappello gave Lakeland the lead with just under nine minutes remaining in the game.
“When Kelsey scored, that helped us to regain some composure and it also pumped us up,” Halpin said. “That also made us even more hungry to get the ball into their end and score.”
Halpin laughed and agreed when asked if the time seemed to go by slowly after Cappello’s goal. It appeared even slower when Garden City closed out the game with a series of corners.
“They had a couple of corners and a couple of opportunities, but our defense did a great job keeping them out,” Halpin said. “Everybody did a great job of staying calm, staying composed and keeping their feet protected so that it didn’t cause another corner.
“We were all excited and grateful to come out of it with the win. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more excited group of girls this season.”
Even though Garden City was eliminated, Lakeland is not taking anything for granted.
“We’re going to keep working hard and focus on the game, not the opponent we’re playing,” Halpin said. “We’re going to keep the same approach on what we’ve been doing, which is focus in on the little details and continue to sharpen up on our skills.”
Caroline Cahill, Jenna McCrudden, Kelsey McCrudden and Cappello scored in the sectional final. Cappello also had an assist, as did Jess Acencao. This was the ninth straight year Lakeland and Rye played for the Class B title.
Lakeland crushed Rye, 8-0, in the second game of the regular season, but the Hornets faced a vastly-improved Garnets’ team.
Lakeland advanced to its ninth consecutive Section 1 Class B final with a 6-0 victory over Somers as Cahill scored four goals. Kelsey McCrudden chipped in with a goal and two assists and Alexa Ryan scored a goal.