Northport star Fortunato is all grown-up
They still call her "Baby Cort."
It started when Cortney Fortunato made varsity in seventh grade, a 12-year-old on a star-studded Northport squad full of upperclassmen.
So, over the years, even as Fortunato emerged as a force in lacrosse, she still was considered the team's "little sister." (Actually, they call her that, too).
Even last year, when the sophomore received All-America honors and her 136 points were second most in Long Island, the sidekick role still was hers. After all, the Tigers were again a senior-laden group and Shannon Gilroy was its three-time All-American. It was her team.
Unfortunate circumstances brought a symbolic passing of the torch in last June's state Class A final, however. Gilroy led Northport's dramatic comeback, giving them a lead in the first overtime, but the superstar tore her ACL on the play. She watched as Pittsford tied it.
"We got in a huddle and the feeling was like, "It can't end like this for Shannon. We have to win now,'" Fortunato said. "And I think everyone was kind of looking at me after she went down."
Northport's first state title was captured on Fortunato's rifle shot with 1.3 seconds left in double overtime. "I've watched it a bunch of times and it gives me chills," said Gilroy, now at Florida. "I was in pain but I was so glad for her . . . Cort winning that game was just fitting. That's how I would've wanted it."
Those two were among the five Long Islanders selected to the Under-19 national team that competed in the world championships in Germany last August. The injury kept Gilroy out and Fortunato was, again, the youngest member on the team.
So, a 16-year-old among the sport's most esteemed, competing overseas for the first time was the leading scorer as Team USA won gold. "Her shot is just phenomenal and she can fake out any goalie,"Team USA teammate and former Garden City star Mikaela Rix said. "And she's still young. It's amazing how much upside she still has."
State title plaque, world championship, verbal commitment to Notre Dame -- all before 11th grade. What Northport coach Carol Rose saw in that seventh-grader has begun to materialize.
"I saw a rock star," said Rose, who also coaches Fortunato's travel team. "One of the best athletes in middle school and you could just tell . . . She makes everyone around her better and she's one of the best players I've ever coached."
Fortunato's reaction to Rose's statement is a sheepish grin and a, "Yeah, OK."
That humility, though, might actually be her greatest strength. Her acknowledging that, "I have a lot more to learn and accomplish," shows her drive. "I'm pretty hard on myself," she said.
And defenses might shudder at this: Fortunato said she's worked to improve her game -- shooting percentage, field vision and passing, in particular.
As the team has changed, losing 10 seniors, so now has Fortunato's role. "I need to be more vocal and become someone teammates look to," she said. "I've been an impact player, but now I need to be a leader."
Baby Cort is all grown up.