Moving to the county’s top conference has been challenging so far for the South Side girls’ lacrosse team, but a strong offense and stabilizing defensive corps could vault the team back into the top half of the division as the season progresses.
The Lady Cyclones have dropped four in a row after opening the season with consecutive wins, including a heartbreaking 15-14 loss at Plainedge last Saturday where a late rally fell short. South Side has allowed 54 goals during its slide, but coach Rob Devlin believes that number will drop once the team gets acclimated to the stiffer competition.
“It’s our first year in Conference I in a while and the girls are seeing what the pace of the game is all about,” he said. “Plainedge was a non-league game, but they won Conference II last year and we knew they were going to be good and that it would be an even game. It could have gone either way.”
Devlin, who guided South Side to the county semifinals last spring, said he volunteered to move his team up to Conference I after other schools declined.
“I thought it was be a great experience for the girls,” he reasoned. “I knew it was going to be a rough season. I knew we weren’t going to get a lot of wins, but you’re going to get experience and the girls are all going to develop.”
Offense is again at a premium for the Lady Cyclones as seven different girls have reached the seven-goal mark thus far, led by sophomore Sydney Rathjen’s 15 and freshman Emily Iacobellis’s 13. Six players already surpassed double digits in points.
“It’s spread out among grades,” Devlin said. “My leading scorer Sydney is a tenth grader, then I got three girls with 16 points each, a ninth grader, an 11th grader and a senior. So it is spread all over the place.”
A common trend for the program in recent seasons has been the play of its younger players. Iacobellis has scored in all six games this season, including four in South Side’s 18-6 win at Seaford on March 21. Sophomore Ella Delmond is continuing her growth with seven goals and freshman sister Mia has three tallies of her own.
The defense is anchored by captains Jessica Healy and Nicolina Mauro. Junior goalkeeper Jillian Schumacher has held her own between the pipes with 37 saves spanning five appearances, including a season-high 11 in a 9-8 loss against Wantagh on March 30.
South Side faced struggling Massapequa earlier this week and will have a tough road contest against 7-0 Cold Spring Harbor on Friday. Devlin said that his team’s improvement of late will carry over into that contest.
“Cold Spring Harbor is who they are and they’re [strong] year after year,” Devlin said. “We just have to keep doing our thing. They’re getting used to it and our decision making is getting better. As long as you’re working your best, you’re going to get the results.”