Mineola High School’s boys varsity lacrosse team lost 16-8 to Cold Spring Harbor Tuesday in the Mustangs’ first appearance in the Nassau County finals since 1962.
“We gave it our best, and we ended up coming up short, but we had a great year,” Mineola head coach Glenn Cocoman said. “That’s a really, really great team we played yesterday. Their three attack guys are tremendous.”
Mineola (14-4) kept the game close through the first half, falling behind 1-0 at the end of the first quarter and rallying with two unanswered goals to enter halftime down 5-2.
“We had chances early on in the first quarter but didn’t convert,” Cocoman said. “They finally broke through and scored late in the first quarter, then they started to get away a little bit in the second quarter.”
Cold Spring Harbor (15-1), who ended Mineola’s season in each of the last three years, pulled away with a 7-0 run in the third quarter.
“We gave out after halftime. We’re not as deep, and we just looked tired,” Cocoman said. “[Cold Spring Harbor] just kind of opened it up in the third quarter and sealed the game there.”
But he said the Mustangs continued to fight in the fourth even when the game seemed out of reach.
“I was proud that our guys never quit and they played to the end,” he said.
James Gerstner led Mineola with three goals and an assist, and goalie John Clancy kept the game close with a number of difficult saves.
“A highlight for us was our goalie was fantastic. John Clancy played great and really kept us in the game. In the first half John was making a bunch of saves and their goalie was making a bunch of saves. It could have gone either way,” Cocoman said.
Mineola, which was routed by Cold Spring Harbor 15-1 earlier in the year, defeated Locust Valley 11-5 last Wednesday to advance to the finals.
Gerstner, who committed to Stony Brook for lacrosse, was one of seven third-year varsity seniors on the Mustangs that Cocoman credited with reviving Mineola’s program.
Two years ago, the then-sophomores led Mineola to its first winning season in years with a 9-7 record and a berth in the Nassau County semifinals. Mineola again made it to the semifinals last year with an 11-5 record.
“They’ve grown in the past years,” he said. “I’ve been coaching lacrosse for 20-plus years, and this is the third group like this that you just get a really special group — just the way they respond to coaching.”
Cocoman said many of the players also advanced to the Nassau County finals for football, making their lacrosse success even more remarkable.
“Those seniors set a great example for the other kids going forward… [they] have really changed things around here, just their work ethic,” Cocoman said. “It’s almost June at this point. In the past, lacrosse would have been over for a month at this point, and I think they’ve really changed how things will be in the future.”
Gerstner said the trust he has developed with the other seniors — both on and off the field — helped the Mustangs finally take that leap to advance to the finals.
“The bond is really special. I think it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing and I just love to come to practice with them every day,” Gerstner said. “It’s not a bunch of me guys — we’re all looking for the other guy just trying to put the ball in the net.”
“Whenever I mess up, I know if I’m having a bad day, I can look at another guy and it will be his day,” he added.
Gerstner said the big difference this year was that the Mustangs’ defense has “really stepped it up.”
“We tightened up. That’s what made us get to the finals,” he said. “Offense wins games, but defense wins championships. I believe our offense got us in the playoffs the past two years, but our defense got us in the finals this year.”