Another CSH Standout Earns Northeast Girls' Player of Year Honor

Cold Spring Harbor (N.Y.) attacker Caroline DeBellis will join her sister, Sam, at Duke in the fall having won back-to-back state titles — capped off by a 74-goal senior season. (@FLGLAX)


In the moment, Cold Spring Harbor (N.Y.) girls’ lacrosse coach Danielle Castellane was thinking, “There’s no way she’s gonna catch that ball. There’s no way she’s gonna finish.”

But as she has done consistently for the past five years, Caroline DeBellis was open for a split second. She caught the pass, a perfectly thrown bomb from teammate Isabelle Vitale. And then DeBellis finished, firing the ball past the opposing goalie.

That goal, like many of the others she scored this year, came at the perfect time, when her team needed momentum or needed something to calm its nerves. It was one of her two big goals in a 5-4 win over Bayport-Blue Point in the Long Island Class C championship.

The Cold Spring Harbor senior scored 74 goals this past season and was the consistent finisher and leader for a team that claimed its second straight New York state title.

That’s why for the second straight season, the Brine/US Lacrosse Northeast Girls’ Player of the Year comes from Cold Spring Harbor, the small program that has solidified itself as one of the best in the region in the last six seasons.

Sophia DeRosa, who recently completed her freshman year at Brown, was the 2018 honoree. Now the honor goes to DeBellis, a 5-foot-9 attacker.

“There were two defenders in front of her, and I definitely thought she was going to drop the ball, be fouled, overshoot it,” recalled Castellane, who has guided Cold Spring Harbor for the past 13 years. “There was no way she was gonna handle that pass and the shot. And watching it back on film, when she caught it and finished it, my whole coaching staff looked at me and thought, ‘How did she do that?’ Those are the type of plays she makes. That’s the type of stick she has. She’s clutch for us in those close situations.”







DeBellis, who recorded 274 points over the past four seasons, recalled it a bit differently. She said she trusted her teammates, especially Vitate and Nicole Mormile. They would recognize when she was cutting and know when to feed her the ball.

But as DeBellis developed into the team’s offensive backbone, her teammates trusted her, because they recognized how well she understood the game and respected the work she put in as preparation.

“Isabelle Vitale would always work the right side,” DeBellis said. “Every time I would cut, she would always hit me. We would make eye contact. Right when I had my stick up, she would hit me if I was half-open. That time, I remember, I was on the elbow, and I saw a little spot open. Two girls were coming at me from both sides. She just threw it, and I caught it and then I shot it. It went in. It was good.”

Castellane pulled up DeBellis to the varsity squad as an eighth-grader. The former Hofstra defender said DeBellis was always unflappable and focused on the field. Castellane marveled at DeBellis’ stick skills and ability to find an opening, even when drawing the opposing team’s toughest defender.

“She’s just that consistent finisher — when she has the ball, everybody is kind of at ease,” Castellane said. “They trust her. She has excellent vision and phenomenal use of time and space. She’s not somebody that you’re going to see blasting down the field with the ball or dodging as she goes 1-on-1 to the cage. She just has the most fundamentally sound stick. I always felt like she was that calming force on the offensive end.”

DeBellis credited her sister, Sam DeBellis, a redshirt junior attacker at Duke, with providing the roadmap to success. Sam DeBellis also was a five-year varsity contributor for Castellane and known for her slick stick and consistent ability to finish.

Caroline DeBellis said the opportunity to play again with Sam was too good to pass up. She will rejoin her sister this fall at Duke. Sam DeBellis helped CSH advance to the Class C state title game in 2014, but the Seahawks came up short in their quest for a championship.

“I remember sitting in the stands as a young kid and thinking, ‘This better be me when I’m older. I want to do this,’” DeBellis said. “Last year, doing it once, it was like, ‘Wow, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This is crazy.’ It was an awesome weekend. I remember pulling up to the practice field this year before the season started and I told my friend, ‘This is weird. We have this opportunity again. I thought this was only a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.’ It’s just crazy the amount of progress our varsity team has made over the course of the last few years.”


 

 
BRINE/US LACROSSE
NORTHEAST PLAYER OF THE YEAR
CAROLINE DeBELLIS

School: Cold Spring Harbor (N.Y.)
Year: Senior
Position: Attack
Stats: 74 goals, 19 assists
Coach Danielle Castellane: “She’s just that consistent finisher. When she has the ball, everybody is kind of at ease. They trust her. She has excellent vision and phenomenal use of time and space. She’s not somebody that you’re going to see blasting down the field with the ball or dodging as she goes 1-on-1 to the cage. She just has the most fundamentally sound stick. I always felt like she was that calming force on the offensive end.”


 

Castellane said DeBellis’ consistent excellence helped a team that lost four key seniors from its 2018 championship squad.

“She was never held scoreless in any game, especially in the Nassau County power conference,” Castellane said.  “People were able to slow her down at times, but never really shut her down. She’s very even-keeled, and she doesn’t panic when she was face-guarded. She doesn’t act any differently, depending on what type of defense is thrown at her, because she knows how to read a defense and what plays will work in certain situations.”

Castellane said the opportunity to be around the DeBellis family for the past 10 years has been one of the best experiences of her coaching career.

Cold Spring Harbor had 11 seniors on its most recent championship team. Castellane said DeBellis, along with defender Sophia Taglich (Boston College) and midfielders Grace Tauckus (Princeton) and Mormile (Middlebury), provided leadership and skill in every part of the field.

This senior class added another part of the foundation that is establishing CSH as a state powerhouse, despite its small enrollment. And according to Castellane and DeBellis, it’s all because there is chemistry and players are buying in.

“I feel like the girls who put on our jersey or wear our gear, they are buying into the program,” Castellane said. “Our coaching staff does a really good job of staying involved at all the levels. We have good chemistry, which leads to the girls having good chemistry. They’re just really starting to buy in. Everything that we’re doing, I think that we’ve sold it.”

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