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2003 season – Lakeland

After winning the Section 1 Class B title and advancing to regional play in 1999, Lakeland endured an uncharacteristic dry spell.

The Hornets went three years without winning a sectional title, despite reaching the Class A final in 2000, ’01 and ’02. Veteran Lakeland coach Sharon Sarsen entered the 2003 season with one of her youngest teams. Sarsen had only three seniors – forward Danielle Fiore, back Andi Coiro and Alicia Wolf. Sarsen also kept four freshmen – Kara Connoly, Melissa Gonzalez, Rebecca DiSisto and Amy Voelkel – the most ninth-graders during her tenure. Sarsen was quite clear when she told me, prior to the season, that she didn’t know what to expect.

While Sarsen was unsure of what the season would bring, she was treated to a special conclusion by her team, especially by the intense Fiore.

Lakeland would win the Section 1 Class A title, beating nemesis Brewster, which had triumphed over the Hornets in the 2000 and 2001 Class B title games. Before the championship-game victory though, Lakeland overcame a rising Mamaroneck team, 5-4 in overtime of a semifinal.

The Hornets ripped their way through regionals and were dominant in the state final four, capping it with a 2-0 victory over Williamsville North in the title game, giving Sarsen a second state championship. Fiore, who was lethal on penalty corners all season with her howitzer shot, scored both goals on corners and was named the MVP.

“This team came out of the blue,” said Sarsen, who has more than 350 career wins. “I think we shocked everyone. It was a revelation to us as if to say, ‘Look what we’ve done.’ ”

Fiore and Coiro had outstanding seasons and the four freshmen all made positive contributions. Section 1 learned that season that Gonzalez (now playing at UConn) was on her way to becoming one of the finest all-around players in Section 1 history. Gonzalez contributed a double-digit goal total that season as did Connolly (now playing at New Hampshire).

Sarsen credited Fiore and Coiro with taking control and showing outstanding leadership.

“Danielle and Andi put this team on their backs,” Sarsen said. “They were not intimidated. They said, ‘Let’s get it done.’ When we got to the state tournament, nobody was intimidated by any team and that was because of Danielle and Andi.”

Even though Lakeland was a sectional finalist in 2004 and was upset by John Jay-East Fishkill in a semifinal in 2005, the Hornet rebounded to win the Section 1 Class A title, 2-1 over Mamaroneck. Melissa Gonzalez played one of the finest games I have ever witnessed as a reporter. Despite drawing double and sometimes triple teams, Gonzalez scored the eventual decisive goal on an outstanding individual effort.

The four seniors who were together since freshmen year – Gonzalez, Connolly, DiSisto and Voelkel – along with classmates Rosemarie Fazio and Jessica Mucci took over during the postseason. The senior class led Lakeland to a second state championship in 2006.

Once this group graduated, questions abounded as to whether Lakeland could repeat. What many did not understand was that the junior class of Caitlin Collins (now playing at Louisville), Chelsea Robinson, Cassie O’Mara, Tara McGovern and Leah DiSisto was an excellent group. Caitlins was a playmaking center midfielder, Robinson a lighting-quick forward who was dangerous any time the ball was on her stick, O’Mara a creator on the wing, McGovern an outstanding defender and scorer on penalty corners and DiSisto a fine goalie who always made the big save.

Lakeland would play Mamaroneck in the Section 1 Class A final and add a second consecutive title. The Hornets reached the 2007 state final, but was surprised by Williamsville North, 2-1. Despite the result, Sarsen was proud of her team, especially the 2008 senior class that was always in the shadow of  the 2007 graduating class.

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November 20, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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