Things were looking pretty bleak for the West Hempstead girls’ lacrosse team after a season-opening four-game losing streak, but a key defensive moment and an incredible offensive performance by one of its young players keyed an explosive finish.
After allowing 56 goals during their slump, the Lady Rams rediscovered their game and won seven of their last eight to finish 7-5, a five-game improvement from 2017 and good for third place in Conference V behind Valley Stream District and Great Neck North.
The mark is even more impressive because the team had to play all but two of their games on the road while the field at West Hempstead High School was being renovated. The Lady Rams’ only two “home” games were a 16-4 win over Roosevelt on April 30 and a 18-0 drubbing of Hempstead in the season finale on May 9, which were played on an elementary school field.
The turning point of the season was a 16-15 victory at Glen Cove on April 23. West Hempstead outscored the Big Red 7-5 in the second half after trailing at halftime and 6-foot midfielder Korrina Plair-Johnson got a piece of a Big Red shot that goaltender Jenn Lian stopped with 13 seconds left to seal that elusive first win.
“It definitely sparked us because the kids I have on this team are a lot of returning players from last yeasr,” coach Suzanne Kenney said. “They just needed a little boost and to recognize that they kind of have to get over that hump.”
The victory rejuvenated the Lady Rams and the defense allowed just under eight goals per game over the remaining seven contests while averaging 15.5 goals offensively.
Grace DeStasio emerged as one of the top players on Long Island with 81 goals (second in Nassau County) and 91 points (tied for third). She had half of West Hempstead’s goals in a 20-10 win at Wheatley on April 26 and netted nine in a 15-12 triumph at Malverne/East Rockaway on May 8.
“She’s fantastic,” Kenney said. “She has the skills on the offensive end to see anybody on a dodge and put the ball in the net. But she also is really our hardest-working player and that’s the biggest thing that makes our team go.”
Fellow sophomores Mirtha Sevilla (33 goals) and Alexa Virgo (21) took advantage of the opposing defenses keying on DeStasio with strong seasons of their own. Sevilla, a lefty, scored six times in the Wheatley game and Virgo had three-goal games in wins over Great Neck South and Roosevelt.
Lian, a junior, had 102 saves this season.
With the core star players in place for at least two more seasons and with just three seniors graduating, Kenney is expecting even bigger things in 2019.
“I’m excited,” Kenney said. “We have a legitimate chance to win the conference and then anything can go from there, as long as they’re willing to put the work in in the offseason. That’s the biggest thing.”