When Nicole DeMase talks about pressure, there is no mistaking the change of tone in her voice. The soft-spoken junior lights up when the topic of playing in big games is brought up.
“I love the pressure; I think it’s great,” DeMase said. “I think it makes the game so much more exciting. It just means so much more. I was never one to shy away from pressure, even when I was younger. I just love it.”
It’s fitting that DeMase has such an appreciation for big-time situations. The midfielder, this season’s Westchester/Putnam Journal News/Lohud.com girls lacrosse player of the year, thrived during them throughout the season for Somers.
For DeMase, it wasn’t just about scoring, which she did in boatloads this season, tallying a team-high 66 goals and 16 assists, but coming up big when it mattered most.
“She just has that attitude that if it’s going to get done she’s going to be the one to do it,” Somers coach Jaime Irving said.
It started on April 25 when DeMase converted an 8-meter shot with 37 seconds left to give Somers an 8-7 win against Mahopac.
Irving recalled a conversation she had immediately prior to the shot that showed the amount of confidence she had in DeMase.
“I remember turning to my assistant coach (Katelyn Houlihan) and saying, ‘That’s exactly whose stick I want that ball in right now, because I know she’s going to get this done,’” Irving said. “Not that I had any less faith in any of my other players, but I just know the kind of kid Nicole is.”
Less than a month later, DeMase tallied another game winner, this one with 15 seconds remaining in an 11-10 sectional quarterfinal win against Fox Lane.
“Definitely late in games I was always trying to get myself open and really just kind of take a little bit more leadership and control,” said DeMase, who was an all-American honoree this season and is committed to Johns Hopkins. “Kind of set things up, I guess.”
A six-point game against Nyack in the sectional semifinals secured a 17-13 win and Somers’ first trip to the sectional final in program history.
It was in the championship game against Yorktown that DeMase truly shined, scoring the game-tying goal on an 8-meter shot with 1:19 left to send the game to overtime.
DeMase scored twice in overtime, including the game-winner, to lead the Tuskers to a 15-12 win and their first sectional title.
“That’s what you dream about as a little kid,” DeMase said. “Taking that last shot and being the hero to get it done. I was just happy we won and it was even better that it was me that was able to get it done.”
And while DeMase has always felt comfortable playing under pressure, becoming the confident player she is today has been a process three years in the making.
“Playing on the team as a freshman and giving me as much playing time as (Irving) did, she definitely put a lot of confidence in me,” DeMase said. “I think she just helped me grow my game.”
That might be what DeMase enjoys most about coming up when it matters most: The fact her coaches and teammates are willing to give her the chance to do it.
“I owe a lot of the credit to my teammates, especially for getting me open,” DeMase said. “I think it’s awesome that they have that kind of faith and belief in me to get it done at the end of games like that.
The rest of the Journal News/Lohud.com first-team includes:
Laurel Cassidy, Hackley: Cassidy, who is committed to Colgate, was one of the Hornets’ go-to options on offense, as Hackley came within one victory of winning it’s third straight NYSAIS championship. The senior midfielder finished with 41 goals and 32 assists and earned all-American honors for the second straight season.
Emily Concialdi, Yorktown: Despite missing three games due to an ankle injury, the junior midfielder finished with 40 goals and 11 assists. Concialdi, who is committed to the University of Southern California, also came up big for Yorktown at the draw circle en route to earning all-American honors for the second straight season.
Kelsey Fee, White Plains: Fee, who will play at Ithaca in the fall, was the anchor of one of the best defenses in the section. An all-American selection, the senior goalkeeper finished with a 51.7 save percentage and a 4.9 goals-against average.
Molly Fitzpatrick, Lakeland/Panas: Fitzpatrick always seemed to come up big for the Rebels when it mattered most, including game-winning goals in the sectional quarterfinals and semifinals. The junior midfielder finished with 78 goals and 22 assists.
Amanda Flayhan, John Jay: The junior attacker and all-American honoree was the catalyst on offense for the Indians, who lost more than half its scoring from 2013. Flayhan, who is committed to Michigan, finished with 58 goals, 20 assists, 21 ground balls, 68 draw controls and 17 caused turnovers.
Kim Harker, Mahopac: The junior midfielder earned all-American honors after finishing with 97 goals and 10 assists this season. Committed to Northwestern, Harker also scooped up 120 groundballs.
Kate Leone, White Plains: The senior midfielder led the Tigers with 107 points (79 goals, 28 assists) and 85 draw controls. The quarterback of White Plains’ offense, Leone, who will play at Mercer University in the fall, also posted 37 groundballs and 17 caused turnovers.
Emalee Mongno, Yorktown: Mongno, who is headed to Ohio State, was able to produce despite drawing so much attention. The senior midfielder had a balanced 39 goals and 29 assists as she helped Yorktown to the sectional finals.
Lindsey Repp, Scarsdale: Repp tallied 60 goals and 22 assists from the midfield. Committed to Brown, the senior also took the majority of Scarsdale’s draws, finishing with 82 draw controls.
Gretchen Richter, Bronxville: The senior attacker had 64 goals and 29 assists as she led the Broncos to their first sectional and regional title in program history. Richter, who is committed to Bucknell, was also important at the draw circle, where she had 129 draw controls.
Emma Schurr, Somers: The senior was a key components of the Tuskers’ run to their first sectional title in program history. Schurr, who is committed to Boston College, finished with 33 goals and 27 assists.
Coach of the year
Jaime Irving, Somers: In her fourth season with the Tuskers, Irving led Somers to its first sectional title in program history. Irving’s team finished the regular season undefeated and had two all-Americans in Emma Schurr and Nicole DeMase.
Hanna Bocklet, John Jay, Sr.
Katie Bradbury, Lakeland/Panas, So.
Katie Comerford, Yorktown, So.
Micheline DiNardo, Rye, So.
Maria Howe, Pleasantville, Sr.
Shannon Lynch, White Plains, Jr.
Julia Massaro, Rye Country Day, Jr.
Sarah Mehlman, Scarsdale, Jr.
Sammy Mueller, Hackley, So.
Tara Schurr, Somers, Sr.
Charlotte Tucci, Rye, Jr.
Gabby Susz, Edgemont, Sr.
Nikki Apostolopoulos, Ursuline, Sr.; Dana Bozek, Lakeland/Panas, So.; Emily Byrne, Byram Hills, Sr.; Keely Connors, Fox Lane, Jr.; Hannah Dunn, Horace Greeley, Sr.; Amber Feminella, Hen Hud, Jr.; Stefanie Frolo, Hackley, Sr.; Emma Gorman, John Jay, Jr.; Lilly Grass, Bronxville, So.; Olivia Jensen, Mamaroneck, Fr.; Emma Kashian, Yorktown, Jr.; Lily Lleshaj, Brewster, Sr.; Sydney Marks, Horace Greeley, Sr.; Aly Martone, Somers, Sr.; Greta Massey, Mamaroneck, Sr.; Katie McAllister, Pleasantville, Jr.; Julie Miner, Edgemont, Jr.; Hannah O’Reilly, John Jay, Jr.; Eva Rabson, Putnam Valley, Jr.; Taylor Regan, Rye Country Day, Fr.; Gabby Rosenzweig, Somers, So.; Brianna Steigerwald, Mamaroneck, Jr.; Abby Squirrell, Ossining, Jr.; Mallory Toolan, Irvington, So.; Mason Warble, Bronxville, Fr.; Maggie Welsh, Holy Child, Sr., Lindsay West, Fox Lane, So.; Kate Whiston, Rye, Sr.