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Wantagh brings high expectations

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After guiding Wantagh to an appearance in the Nassau Class C girls’ lacrosse championship game in 2019, coach Robyn Rooney has high expectations for a team full of talent in all areas of the field.

“I think we have a chance to shock a lot of people,” Rooney said. “We’re hoping to walk off the field in the last game with a win. Only one team is fully happy at the end of the season and I want it to be our girls. We have the roster to do it.”

In an early statement game against perennial Class B powerhouse Manhasset, now a Class C contender, the Warriors won a thriller May 5, 13-12, on sophomore Madison Alaimo’s goal with 31 seconds left off a feed from junior Madison Taylor. Wantagh opened the season four days earlier and defeated Long Beach, 17-7, behind Taylor’s nine points (six goals, three assists) and senior Sabrina Caruso’s four goals.

“Our whole season is a test,” said Rooney, who noted the Warriors will play 13 games against Conference I opponents in just over a month’s time. “There are no easy games and we have to play as a unit,” she added.

In Taylor, a Northwestern commit, Rooney believes Wantagh boasts the top player on Long Island. As a freshman in 2019, Taylor recorded 47 goals and 59 draw controls. “She was our go-to player two years ago and continues to elevate her game,” Rooney said. “She’s impossible to guard and she’s even more dangerous as a feeder this year when defenses collapse on her.”

Taylor heads a deep and strong midfield that includes seniors Shae Insinga, Jillian Balkunis and Shannon Sullivan. Insignia is a key on draws as well as both ends of the field, Rooney said. “Shae is a special player still realizing her potential and getting confident,” the coach noted. Balkunis is the quarterback in the middle, a proven offensive weapon who makes everyone around her better, Rooney said. Sullivan is an explosive and gritty athlete who along with Balkunis, Caruso and several others helped Wantagh to a county championship in volleyball last month.

Caruso, who missed most of 2019 with a knee injury, is part of a revamped attack that has Rooney excited. “Sabrina is crucial to our attack and worked so hard to get back on the field,” she said. Caruso netted five goals against Manhasset. Alaimo, who had six assists in the win over Long Beach, is creative around the crease. Senior Leena Moussa is aggressive to the cage, and sophomore Eva Ingrilli is another threat.

In the defensive zone, it’s a senior-led unit headed by Rutgers University-bound MaKenna Boutin, the lone returning starter. Reilly Brady, Emma Gonsowski and Olivia Benedetto have solidified the effort in the back. In goal, sophomores Nicole Schammloffel and Lauren Rochel are splitting time, Rooney said. “Nicole is lefty, Lauren is righty and we’re confident both of them can do the job,” she said.