Hanging state championship plaques has become as much a holiday tradition for Jill Mulholland's family as hanging Christmas lights or mistletoe.
The rich soccer bloodline that helped the DiMartino sisters bring three state championships to Massapequa in the past decade transfused into Levittown this season as their cousin, Mulholland, led MacArthur to the team's first girls soccer state title.
Christmas dinner might be awkward this year considering Mulholland and MacArthur went through Rosie DiMartino and Massapequa, which also features their younger cousin Taylor Kugler, in the semifinals. But if you're going to lose, it might as well be to family.
"They were really happy and proud," Mulholland said of her family's reaction. "Massapequa always wins it, so they were happy that we won it for the first time."
As was the Levittown community. Just hours after Mulholland scored off a feed from her longtime teammate and fellow senior captain, Kelly Kempf, in the Generals' 1-0 win over Arlington in the Class AA state championship, the MacArthur High School parking lot was filled with fire trucks, balloons, flowers and fans welcoming home the new state champions as they returned from Cortland.
"The kids were crying because they were so blown away that people would do that for them," MacArthur coach Lauren Gotta said. "It just brought the community together."
What brought the MacArthur defense together was a pact made by sweeper Jenny Scro and keeper Jena Cozza. The two agreed that if Scro tried out for basketball, then Cozza -- who plays basketball and softball -- would return to the soccer team after a one-year hiatus. Cozza had never played keeper but her shortstop's lateral movement and her guard's leaping ability made her an ideal candidate for the position.
The two combined with Sam Sherman and Sam DiClemente to form a swarming defense that had 15 shutouts and often didn't allow the ball anywhere near Cozza. In six postseason games, the Generals allowed just one goal, which created a deficit that set the stage for the most dramatic moment in the team's history.
Trailing 1-0 late in the second half of the state semifinals, Katie Gerdes scored the tying goal with 5:26 remaining and Arianna Montefusco scored just 56 seconds later to give the Generals a 2-1 win over Brockport.
The Generals (18-2) won their first county championship, 3-0 over Calhoun with a penalty kick goal by Scro to open the scoring, and their first Long Island championship, 1-0, over Ward Melville after Mulholland scored on a pass from Christina Cottone.
It was a season of firsts for MacArthur, thanks in part to soccer genetics, a defensive pact and one minute to win it in Cortland.
"A lot of us have been playing together for so long that we just know how each other plays," Mulholland said. "We were really close and we bonded. We knew this was going to be the year."