Smithtown East owned the last two minutes of the first half -- a man-up spurred a four-goal barrage that drew the Bulls to within one at the break. Middle Country? Well, it owned the last 1 minute, 30 seconds of the game and, despite having only a single goal to show for it, Middle County on Friday proved itself masters of time management.
After a red card shorted the Bulls a player with 1:29 to go, Shannon Coleman made the best of the advantage, unleashing a close-range overhand bullet with 21.1 seconds left to give Middle Country an 18-17 girls lacrosse win in Suffolk Division I.
The Bulls (4-6) trailed by five with 3:06 left in the first, courtesy of a 0-7 run in 7:02, but came back on three straight man-up goals. The fourth, from Nicole Daniggelis, came during the penalty release, making it 11-10 at the half. Smithtown East took the lead twice in the second, the latest on goals by Jacquelyn Cuccurullo and Brittany DiBernardo to make it 16-14 with 5:08 to go.
Daniggelis (seven goals, two assists) tied the score at 17 with 2:02 to go but a forced turnover by Middle Country's Haley Ferchland sent the ball to Nikki Ortega, the team's leading scorer. The freshman took a swipe to the head (gaining the man-up), then took her sweet time pacing the team in the otherwise frantic final minutes. Jamie Ortega had four goals and an assist.
"We wanted to delay as much as possible," said Nikki Ortega, who had three goals and an assist after an afternoon of being face-guarded.
Added Coleman (six goals, one assist): "That was the most stressful thing ever . . . then I just calmed down and did it."
The pressure was certainly on: an aggressively swarmed Ortega had her shot go wide with 35 seconds to go.
"It was a great feeling," Ortega said, to have Coleman pick her (and the ball) up and score, just in the nick of time.