Sleepy Hollow High Girls’ Lacrosse Squad Makes School History
By Tom Pedulla–
The success of the Sleepy Hollow High School girls’ lacrosse program, which closed the regular season with a 13-1 record that is the best in its history, has been years in the making.
According to 11th-year head coach Blair Moynahan, the initiative taken by Scott Meyer and other parents to establish a youth program in 2009 “changed everything.”
Meyer’s daughter, Isabella, is among those who greatly benefitted from the ability to play in a formal setting with girls who would become Sleepy Hollow teammates. Meyer registered 50 goals and 10 assists while providing extraordinary leadership as the team’s lone captain.
Scott Meyer said of the youth program, “It really changed the dynamic. Before we had girls coming out who had really never played and never had an opportunity to play. It’s really helped keep the program strong and continued to feed girls into the program. It’s really been a good thing for the community and a great thing to be a part of.”
Valuable practice time is no longer spent teaching fundamentals. Girls already arrive at the high school level with skill sets.
The breakout season also can be traced to the emphasis Moynahan and his invaluable assistant, Allison Steinberg, placed on a team-first approach. That filters down to junior varsity coach John Cincotta and to Taylor Burnett, the modified coach and the leading scorer in Sleepy Hollow history.
Moynahan was so impressed by the selfless style employed by Fairfield Warde High School in Fairfield, Conn., that he had the team travel there for a scrimmage several years ago. He believes that provided another turning point.
According to Moynahan, his players are so focused on overall success that they no longer know their individual statistics.
“If one gets knocked down, the others rise,” the coach said. “We’re not a one-trick pony show at all.”
Sleepy Hollow suffered its lone defeat, 17-12 at Dobbs Ferry, in the fourth game of the season en route to the league title. It opened the playoffs by defeating visiting Our Lady of Lourdes.
“The team right now works extremely well together, and we all complement each other really nicely,” Meyer said. “We just know how to work with each other. Even when we’re losing or down in a game, we pick each other up.”
Sleepy Hollow went 9-7 two years ago before losing last season to the pandemic. Moynahan and his staff made sure that gains were still made by going online to detail a workout program and to maintain communication with the players even though they were not allowed to attend school.
“We would post workouts six days a week that were worth about two-and-a-half hours of work,” the coach said, adding, “It was clear to us that there were a fair amount of girls who bought in.”
In addition to Meyer, the other seniors on the roster are Emma Clarke, Sydney Schulz, Maddy Fortugno and Skylar Holliday. Clarke is a master at handling ground balls and excels in transition; four-year starter Fortugno anchored the defense.
There is considerable optimism that Sleepy Hollow can sustain its momentum into 2022. Abby Oppenheim (63 goals, 25 assists) and Kiera McNally (26 goals, 34 assists, school-record 105 draws) are juniors. Then there are the Nelson sisters. Anna is a junior midfielder while Evelyn, an eighth-grader with vast potential, possesses remarkable versatility and can play any position well.
Strong teams typically have strong support systems. That is the case with Sleepy Hollow.
“The parent involvement, especially the last few years, has really been amazing,” Moynahan said. “It’s been a healthy, positive, supportive environment.”
He also noted the impact of Michael Arias, who became a strong advocate for the program in his first year as athletic director.