Leonard Hession’s best coaching didn’t happen Sunday afternoon, when the Tottenville girls lacrosse team defeated Beach Channel, 12-4, to capture the PSAL Championship Division title at Aviator Sports Complex.
It was three years ago when he convinced Nicole Tantillo to join the team. On Sunday, the speedy senior attack capped a stellar career by scoring four goals to guide the Pirates to a third consecutive city title.
“Nicole is a special player,” Hession said. “First and foremost she’s a leader and her athleticism is the only thing that compares to that. She played incredible today, she was definitely the general out there. This is one way to end her career on a very high note.”
Tantillo is a three-sport star at Tottenville, also playing soccer and running track. But it is on the lacrosse field that she’s found the most success. This year, Tantillo had 34 goals and 29 assists for the top-seeded Pirates.
“This has been the best experience of my life,” Tantillo said. “I’m so glad Hession convinced me to play lacrosse freshman year. This means everything. To come out and win it three years in a row and in our senior year, there’s no better feeling in the world.”
It was extra special for that senior core that they ended their career with a title win against second-seeded Beach Channel, which fell to 11-4. It is the team that upset them in the final as freshmen and the squad that handed the Pirates their lone loss this year, a 7-5 defeat at Aviator on April 19.
“It was everything,” Tantillo said. “Really that and losing to them in the championship game freshman year was in our mind the whole time. We wanted to win for the right reasons and I think we did.”
Highly motivated, Tottenville (14-1) came out of the gate strong, racing out to a 5-0 lead on a pair of goals by Jessica Castellano and one apiece for Tantillo, Maria Cacciapuoti and Stephanie Soboleva in the opening 13 minutes.
“Coming out strong in the beginning is key,” Tantillo said. “It sets the tone for the whole game. It really brings momentum and we kept it up the whole game.”
Indeed, despite having a seemingly comfortable six-goal lead at the half, the Pirates didn’t take their foot off the gas in the second. Tantillo and Samantha Siciliano each scored two goals after halftime and Cacciapuoti added her second of the game.
“Cushion is nice, but we knew this team could come back at any time,” Hession said. “It was really nice to have that lead. That was part of our game plan, to get up on them early and then finish off in the second half.”
While the offense was varied, the constant between the pipes Sunday and throughout the season has been Rebecca Fishkis. Part of that senior core, Fishkis made 13 saves to earn game MVP honors.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” Hession said. “There’s been a core that has been part of three championships, but then there’s new girls who come and replace those who have graduated. I’m very proud that since Day One they worked toward this goal and ultimately they reached it.”
Follow Dylan Butler on Twitter @Dylan_Butler