High School Girls

July 22, 2009

Behind Hillier, Farmingdale Sticks to No. 1

by Jeff Seidel | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

Sophomore Kelly McPartland scored a goal to help Farmingdale rally to beat Guilderland in the New York Class A championship game.

© Jim Stout

2009 Lacrosse Magazine High School Rankings

Boys: 1-5 | 6-10 | 11-15 | 16-20 | 20-25
Girls: 1-5 | 6-10 | 11-15 | 16-20 | 20-25

Maybe it was destiny.

With one-goal wins in the three biggest games to end the season, the Farmingdale girls' lacrosse team developed a comfort level with the number 1 this season -- if there is such a thing when winning championships by the slimmest of margins. That's partly why they landed in this position, as the No. 1 team in Lacrosse Magazine's 2009 high school rankings.

Farmingdale won its first New York state title this spring and beat some tough opposition to do it, let alone get there. A sweep of powerful Long Island foes -- including a 13-12 win over previously unbeaten Northport in the island's championship game -- fueled a dramatic run to an unbeaten season (17-0), one of just a handful of teams across the country to accomplish that feat.

"It's so hard to just get off the island, and that's a great test for what to expect upstate," said Shari Campbell, Newsday's Nassau County Coach of the Year, in her first season as head coach after nine years overseeing the defense. "But that 13-12 win showed the girls that they had a special opportunity."

More dramatics followed for the Dalers, who scored one-goal victories over both No. 3 West Genesee and No. 5 Guilderland in the Class A state semifinals and finals, respectively. In the semis, Janine Hillier (Florida) scored the game-winner in the overtime for a 10-9 victory. She had given Farmingdale a 9-8 lead with 18 seconds left in regulation.

The final was just as tough. Kyra Ochwat scored the winning goal on a free-position shot with nine seconds left for that 10-9 victory. The Dalers were down by two with under seven minutes left before Kelly McPartland and Melanie Raso scored -- the latter with 59 seconds left -- to tie the game.

"When the horn went off, it was like a sign of relief," said Hillier, whose 52 goals and 25 assists earned her All-Long Island honors from Newsday. "That was our goal. That's what we worked for. It was now or never, and I realized that. We played with a chip on our shoulder and wanted to come out strong every game."

The chip came from a loss in the 2008 final -- in which Hillier was named game MVP, which she repeated this season. Hillier set the tone for 2009.

"She's got one of the best work ethics I've ever seen," said Campbell. "She was always the first to practice and the last to leave. That ups the ante for everyone. When you get your best to work, there's no excuse for the rest of the team."

It helped to have a veteran defense on the other end of the field, anchored by goalie Lauren Maksym (North Carolina), who made 12 saves in the state final and was named Long Island Player of the Year by Newsday. Senior defenders who had worked together for a number of years -- Tara Coyle (Richmond), Brittany Hushion (Oregon) and Brianna Lively (Jacksonville) among them -- helped the Dalers limit foes to just 7.2 goals per game.

"The athleticism kids on the island bring from other sports, and then combine that with their lacrosse skills -- it raises the bar every year," said Campbell.

The Dalers met that bar. Hillier said winning the championship was the goal they pointed to all season -- and they got the job done.

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