The Frontier girls lacrosse team for 2017 looked before the season as if it could have a big year. Many teams say that before Opening Day. The difference is that the Falcons lived up to expectations.
"I knew going in to the year that we had talent," coach Tim Myslinski said. "I knew going in that we had a really good work ethic. I didn't know if we would gel as a team, if true leadership would show up.
"It did. You can have talented teams, but if you don't have good leaders, you'll fall short."
It was a memorable year for Frontier, which went through the Western New York part of the schedule undefeated - the only local team to do so - and won a Section VI championship. Myslinski thoroughly enjoyed the 2017 campaign, and not just because it was so successful.
"I have coached boys football forever, and I enjoy coaching them," he said. "But when you coach the girls, it's a whole different level of work ethic and mutual respect. It's almost like coaching college kids. They say girls are two years more advanced in maturity level on average at that age than boys. Coaching girls has made me a better coach. It's a pleasure. My wife says, 'You are so much different when the girls come around.'"
Making the season even sweeter was the fact that it pushed aside Lancaster, which had won the previous five titles and had been the gold standard for a high level of play in the area. Taking the Legends' usual spot on top of the class made victory that much more sweet.
"If you've been to a game between Frontier and Lancaster, you know it's a storied rivalry," Myslinski said. "We're always banging heads. It's either win by one, lose by one. Three goals is a big victory. It's fun to be part of that. ... These games make me a better coach. It's always such an emotional game, even in the second week of the season. When the teams play, there's always respect.
"We could get together for a game this Sunday, and both teams would be ready."
About the only catch for the Falcons' 2017 was the way it ended. Frontier lost to Pittsford of Section V, 15-1, in the Far West Regional a few days after its Section VI win.
"If you're going to get your butts kicked, you should get it done by the eventual state champion," Myslinski said. "It's a big gap. They're a very good team. We were on the high of getting the win against Lancaster, but that's sports. There are highs and lows, and you find how important the highs are. It was a good experience for the girls. They need to know how much work they need to do."
The other top public schools in Western New York had similar stories - great wins in the Section VI final, followed by a loss in the FWR. Hamburg, Lake Shore and East Aurora all will be putting up banners in their gyms for their sectional crowns.
In the Msgr. Martin Athletic Association, Mount St. Mary had a dramatic one-goal win over Mount Mercy to take the local title.
As could be expected, those were the teams that had the most representatives on the All-Western New York squad. Frontier did as well as anyone with three players on the 14-person team.
"Taylor Gehen is a pure athlete," Myslinski said. "She's the fastest girl on the field. Her intensity level and work ethic are beyond reproach. One thing I love about her is her need and will to win and to succeed at every aspect of the game. She'd gnaw her own arm off to get a ground ball."
"Hannah Kennedy is a two-year captain. If she's not the smartest girl on the field, she's the smartest in the classroom - second in her class. She'd reign them in when they needed it and fire them up when they needed it. She's one of those girls that would take over a game, and do it very quietly. She's a great kid; she'll be missed."
Goalie Sam McIver was recruited out of a gym class to play goal, and became an all-star.
"I've had these amazing goalies, and Sam is another one of those kids," Myslinski said. "She had a save percentage in the top 20 in the country. It's nice to have a good defense in front of you. But in that last game against Lancaster, it was her and nobody else, and she made some beautiful saves and clears. There's no fear, and that's so important for a goalie."
Lake Shore also had three players on the all-star team. The Eagles were led by Shayla Scanlan, who received the Prep Talk Award as the area's best player, and the Borrelli award as the top senior high school player in Western New York.
"Shayla Scanlan was fantastic; she was lights out," Myslinski said. "Shayla has the height, size and power. She's off to Louisville."
Jalyn Jimerson and Ivy Santana of Lake Shore joined Scanlan on the All-WNY team.
West Seneca East had two representatives on the team in Laura Skrzypczyk and Grace Vogel. Others on the squad were Allison Kasprzyk of East Aurora, Camryn Sullivan of Amherst, Addy Wright of Hamburg, Maddie Mazur of Lancaster, Kaitlyn Hart of Mount St. Mary's and Kendra Jones of Nichols.
"I thought the crop was really strong this year," Myslinski said. "WNY lacrosse is getting better with the addition of the club programs. It's nice to see more competition, and see them go out and play summer lacrosse."