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Magic turning corner under first-year coach

by Matthew Ondesko: Managing Editor

Geoff Schneider: Sports Union

A slow first half cost Mt. Mercy Academy in their tough 13-12 loss to Nardin, in Monsignor Martin lacrosse action on Saturday afternoon.

The Magic dug themselves an 8-3 first half hole and just couldn’t find that tying goal in the final minute of the game - even though they had some chances.

“We started pretty slow. We gradually started to pick up our momentum and then we started playing well,” stated Lelito. “That first quarter was the reason why we didn’t win that game. I think in the first half the other team wanted it more. In the second half we wanted it more, but we just didn’t have enough time to capitalize on it.”

While the Magic loss the attitude was different. In years past, this game would have gotten out of hand. The score wouldn’t have been as close as it was on this day. That 8-3 score would have turned into a blowout.

But, this is a different Magic lacrosse team than in the past. They believe they are in every game, despite who they are playing. That belief in themselves come from their new coach Abbie Lelito.

Lelito has brought a sense of belief, something these girls were looking for. Anyone can teach the game, but it’s getting the girls to believe in the game plan every time they step on the field. Lelito has been a calming voice in the huddle. She is the right coach, at the right time, for these girls.

“I think it was little be hectic coming in here (the weekend before) and trying to get the girls to do everything that I wanted them to do,” stated Lelito. “Trying to get the girls to want it as much as I do has been the biggest thing this season. I have been pushing them to try their hardest.”

But, it hasn’t been easy. The coaching staff was brought on about one week before tryouts were set to begin this spring. Lelito basically got the job and had to set tryout dates, practices and so on all within just a few days.

She also had to teach these girls a new system. The results were slow out of the gate in the first part of the season. The coaching staff, and girls, were still trying to find their way. The coaching staff was trying to get the team to believe in the system, and in themselves.

The second half of the season has been more of what Lelito is looking for. This team is a gritty team. They take on the persona of their coach, who starred at West Seneca West - before going to play at the Division I level.

They have been the underdog all season long. Teams thought they would come in and just beat Mt. Mercy like they have done in the past. That hash’t happen. The Magic have wins over Sacred Heart, Mount St. Mary and Buffalo Seminary. They have a close loss (13-9) to Nichols School, which is regarded as the best team in the league.

“This has been my biggest challenge. Not even the girls, and their skills, but their mindset,” explained Lelito. “They have such an easy mindset where they just do this for fun. I want to change it to where we are doing this to win We are doing this to be our best. We are doing this to win our league.”

Some times it’s easier said then done. If any program is used to losing, it’s easy to put the head down when the first thing doesn’t go their way. Every team, high school to professional, goes through it.

It’s easier to lose, than it is to win. Players need to want it. That means doing the littles things before or after practice. Working on their game when no on else is looking.

“Throughout the past couple games I am trying to ingrain into them that it’s more than just a sport for fun,” stated Lelito. “So, trying to get this flip to switch this season has been super difficult, but I truly think that the girls heads are starting to turn a little bit more. And they are starting to realize that they want this just as much as I do.”

The Magic have some very talented players that no one knows about. Bri McCaslin has had a very steady year. In one stretch, McCaslin scored eight goals in two games. Rosie Bandura (a DI soccer commit) has had a breakout year under Lelito.

The defense has been anchored by Meghan Bell, and goaltending has been getting better each game.

Whatever happens the rest of the year, this is just the beginning. When you walk into the gym at Mt. Mercy, you see a lacrosse banner on the wall with the 2016 championship proudly displayed.

That was eight years ago, Lelito is ready to add some more years to the banner. She is ready to build a program that will be expected to compete for division titles, and championships, year in and year out.

If you saw her after that tough loss against Nardin, she has the passion to turn this program around. This is just the beginning. Everyone better jump on and get ready for the ride.

“This is a whole new thing coming that I am bringing to the table,” stated Lelito. “I hope everyone is ready for it.”

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