The St. Anthony’s girls lacrosse team entered the season not just as the top-ranked squad in Suffolk County or talent-rich Long Island, it was ranked No. 1 in the country according to ESPN RISE.
One might think that Friars head coach Corinne Lomangino would have tried to downplay the praise, but Lomangino’s biggest challenge might have been the opposite: Getting the girls at St. Anthony’s to believe their talent warranted it. That was especially difficult when the Friars dropped their second game of the year in double overtime to defending state champion Garden City.
“Something I’ve always tried to build into my kids is confidence,” Lomangino said. “I know we have a lot of talent, but we haven’t been a top team in the past for a long time. Still, it was only the pre-season. It’s what happens at the end of the season that matters.”
Nevertheless, the loss stung and left the Friars stunned. It was an early test in which the Friars weren’t quite in sync and they were ultimately upset, 11-10, with Catherine McTiernan scoring the game-winner for the visitors.
“It hurt a lot but we’ll be better for it in the long run,” Lomangino said. “We know that we could have won that game. There were so many positives. We never gave up and it came down to the last four seconds of the game. When you play a team like Garden City, that’s what you hope for. We stuck to our gameplan in a lot of ways but in a few ways we didn’t, and that’s what hurt us.”
Lomangino (nee Broesler), a 2000 graduate of St. Anthony’s, was a two-time high school All-American before playing for national power Duke. Ironically, those Blue Devil teams were annually ranked pre-season top five only to fall short of expectations. Lomangino doesn’t expect these Friars will.
Long Island, of course, is no stranger to fielding formidable lacrosse squads. Manhasset was last year’s unofficial national champ at 20-0. Both Garden City teams challenge for supremacy each year. It’s come together quickly for St. Anthony’s under Lomangino. The girls have gradually climbed the ladder nationally, going from being ranked in the mid-200s in 2008—Lomangino’s debut there—to the top 150 two years ago and ninth last year after going 15-3 and completing their third straight undefeated run through the NSCHSAA.
While other schools’ players ascend through their towns’ lacrosse program as a group, St. Anthony’s personnel comes from all over Long Island. Kerrin Maurer and Lauren Schwalje, each of whom was named an All-American last year, passed up Ward Melville to play for St. Anthony’s. Senior co-captain Crissy Gambino hails from Cold Spring Harbor. Huntington, Smithtown, Centereach, Sayville, they and other communities have contributed to the Friars’ success.
Chemistry they might have formed in developing their games individually must be forged quickly at St. Anthony’s. They’ve not only played at the varsity level but also during the off-season with various clubs. Still, familiarity sometimes solidifies roles amongst each other. In certain situations, they might turn to their seniors for a big goal, but otherwise, they’ve achieved balance that most squads can’t match.
“All of our attackers have great stick skills, they’re smart and they use their strengths well, but the biggest part of our game is that they’re all unselfish,” Lomangino said. “It’s not one girl trying to get through three people.”
This year’s roster has 14 players who are headed to four-year colleges to play lacrosse. Five schools on the list were in the top 10 on a recent deBeer Women’s Media Poll, measuring Division I’s elite squads. Shanna Brady will play for top-ranked and defending national champion Maryland. Even midfielder Maggie Bill is verbally committed to play at North Carolina—in both lacrosse and soccer–and she’s only a sophomore.
Maurer, who’s off to Lomangino’s alma mater, is the team’s most potent scorer despite breaking her leg in a car accident last January. Lomangino debated whether to start her star last April against a powerful Good Counsel (MD) squad. Hobbling around the field, Maurer nevertheless scored eight goals in a 15-14 double overtime win.
“She has more heart and will to win than any kid I’ve ever met,” Lomangino said.
Despite her ability, the offense’s ability to strike from any angle keeps opposing defenses guessing—Schwalje, Darcy Messina, Annie Heagerty, Chrissy Schreiber and Stephanie Paloscio are all dangerous threats. However, it’s the Friars’ own defense that their coach calls the team’s biggest strength. Gambino, Betsy Holland, Shanna Brady and Annie Lynch power the unit on which St. Anthony’s will rely against elite teams both locally and afar.
Its freshman team—a rarity for girls lacrosse on Long Island—has competed well against area junior varsity squads that are comprised of schools’ juniors and sophomores. Some youngsters, such as freshman Kasey Behr, are already making an impact on the varsity level.
The Friars’ schedule is fearsome enough so they could return to the top. In addition to facing its league rivals, St. Anthony’s finished April by facing national powers pre-season No. 2 Good Counsel (MD) and No. 3 McDonogh (MD).
Even if St. Anthony’s isn’t ranked No. 1, it’s still a team that once was. Its name is still circled on opposing teams’ calendars. While the loss to Garden City slightly readjusted their goals—no undefeated season—it’s the mistakes from that game from which the Friars have learned. It may not be No. 1 anymore, but that’s not to say they won’t be there again before all is said and done.
“We have an X on our backs,” Lomangino said. “People are out to get us, but at the same time, great teams embrace the pressure and do better because of it. We want to play the best because we know that’s what’s going to make us the best, whether it’s this year or not.”
THE NEXT LEVEL
The St. Anthony’s girls lacrosse team has 14 players on the roster who are committed to play lacrosse at the collegiate level. Here’s where they’re slated to go.
Lauren Schwalje, Attack, Georgetown // Kerrin Maurer, Attack, Duke // Shanna Brady, Defensive Midfield, Maryland // Crissy Gambino, Defense, Penn // Betsy Holland, Defense/Midfield, Georgetown // Casey Madden, Attack/Midfield, Franklin & Marshall // Rebecca Vetere, Defense, Bucknell // Tara Amalfitano, Defense, American
Annie Heagerty, Midfield/Attack, Georgetown // Darcy Messina, Attack, Florida // Chrissy Schreiber, Midfield, Rutgers // Stephanie Paloscio, Midfield, Princeton // Annie Lynch, Defense, New Hampshire
Maggie Bill, Midfield, North Carolina
Photo: St. Anthony’s Friars’ (L to R) Shanna Brady, Lauren Schwaije, Cristina Gambino, Kerrin Maurer, Betsy Holland.