The Class A Long Island girls field hockey championship was decided Sunday when the Ward Melville Patriots defeated the Massapequa Chiefs, 5-1.
The win was the culmination of a long and grueling season that saw the Patriots give everything they had to bring home its fourth straight Long Island title. The win secured top-seeded Ward Melville a place in the State championships, starting this Friday against Williamsville North.
The first half of Sunday's championship game belonged to Patriot Callie Vitalo, who scored her first goal just shy of two minutes into regulation play. Vitalo followed that up by rocketing her second ball into the Chiefs' goal at eight and a half minutes in.
Despite Massapequa trying its best to turn the tide, Ward Melville's defense held firm, allowing them to close out the first half 2-0.
The second half seemed to continue the trend, with the Patriots' third goal coming courtesy of Vanessa Pryor at just over four minutes into play.
However, as things were looking bleak for Massapequa, a ray of hope shined in the form of Kelsey O'Brien, who slammed a fierce shot into Ward Melville's net at 23:23 remaining, finally putting the Chiefs on the scoreboard, 3-1.
But despite throwing everything they had into the rest of the half, the Chiefs were unable to find any other holes in Ward Melville's game.
The same coundn't be said of Ward Melville, who added two more goals to its tally before the game was through. Patriot goal number four was delivered by Abby Beltrani with 7:44 on the clock and, just as the game was winding down, Pryor nabbed her second goal at 2:41 remaining to close out the game, 5-1, giving the Patriots the Long Island title.
Ward Melville head coach Shannon Watson gave her championship team's opponents credit for going down swinging.
"We have to give respect to Massapequa...they never once backed down on us," she said. "They were always pushing ahead, and we really had to make sure that we were staying on our toes the entire time."
Watson was clearly proud of her girls, now officially the best large-school field hockey team on Long Island.
"Our girls brought a good game today," she said. "We worked hard and were able to come out on top."
As happy as Vitalo was at winning the finals, she was already looking ahead to the next challenge.
"It feels great, winning," she said. "It's a tribute to all our hard work and dedication we put in this season, and we just want to keep it going and pratice hard. We can celebrate today, and tomorrow we've gotta focus on winning States."
For Pryor, today's win meant a momentary break from the rigors of being the number one team...if only until Friday.
"Oh my gosh...it's a relief," she said. "All the pressure, the pressure of coming back and winning again, and now we're finally going to States."
Pryor and her team feel a genuine swell of confidence going into the State finals.
"Our chances are really good this year," she said. "We're keeping our eye on the prize instead of losing our focus, and now we're ready to win."
Ward Melville, now 18-1, faces Williamsville North in Cicero, NY, on Friday, Nov. 19 at 5pm in the first round of the state playoffs.