For many young girls across New York State, the 2021 New York State Regional Championships are an opportunity to showcase their skills against some of the best in their age group. For Nassau girls’ directors Robyn Pastuch and Lauren LoManaco, it’s an opportunity to work with a close friend.
As a kid, Pastuch didn’t know much about lacrosse other than she wanted to play. She used her connections to make it happen for her and her classmates. “I first started playing lacrosse when I was in seventh grade,” Pastuch said. “My mom was the PTA president and I had heard about lacrosse and I had seen boys play but my brother was a baseball player. I said ‘I don’t know much about this sport but I want to play.’ My mom put together a petition and got the first-ever team in my district.”
Pastuch played for Bellmore-Merrick in middle school and then Calhoun High School before playing at UConn where she won an Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference championship in 2005.
After graduation, Pastuch began her coaching career back on Long Island at Adelphi. She then moved on to the high school ranks, coaching at Hewlett and is now in her third year at Wantagh.
Pastuch has fond memories of big games in her playing and coaching careers. “Winning a national championship as a coach at Adelphi is definitely up there,” Pastuch said. “Even though we lost in the county championship to Cold Spring Harbor two years ago, that game was such a good, come-from-behind game, we really played our hearts out. In college, we beat Notre Dame my freshman year and then high school, my last goal was behind-the-back, before that was a thing.”
To get involved with the New York State Regional Championships, Pastuch again used her connections. “I’ve known Mike and Corey [Winkoff] for a while, I used to be the girls’ director for them and they have helped my career tremendously,” Pastuch said. “When Mike approached me to be a director for Nassau, it was a no-brainer. I get to do it with Lauren LoMonaca, who I’m really good friends with, the two of us looked at each other and we said ‘yeah, let’s do this.'”
Adding the girls to the tournament will give opportunities to more players to make the memories like the ones Pastuch has. “A big memory of mine is winning the Empire State Games when I was a junior in high school,” Pastuch said. “We beat Central in overtime and I had the winning assist.”
The competitive fire still burns in Pastuch as she prepares for the 2021 tournament. “Winning all four divisions, that’s my goal,” Pastuch said. “I think we have the talent at Nassau and we get overshadowed by Suffolk a lot. You can’t take away from any of those upstate programs but I do think we have the talent and we have a lot to prove because people think Nassau is the lesser side of the island. Any given day, you can win them all.”
Like Pastuch, LoManaco began playing in middle school. She was looking for a new challenge and was helped by a friend. “I started in seventh grade and I didn’t start the first day, I ran track the first day because I was too afraid of lacrosse, I thought I was going to break my nose,” LoManaco said. “My friend did it and she said ‘I have an extra stick for you’ so I went the second day because, when I went to track, I beat everybody and thought ‘this is kind of boring’ so I went to lacrosse and absolutely fell in love.”
After careers at Massapequa High School and LIU Post, began moving into coaching. “I student-taught at Syosset and the head coach at the time, Lisa Christiansen, I work with her now, she’s my JV coach, was stepping down so her assistant moved up to be the head coach and I interviewed to become the varsity assistant coach and I have been in the varsity program for the last 14 years.”
LoManaco has made many memories at Syosset, including ending a dynasty. “Making to the county championship for the first time ever in 2014 was an awesome moment and then coming back the next year to win it when Farmingdale had the title for the last 11 years,” LoManaco said. “That was a really special moment for the girls and me.”
She also enjoys supporting her former players at the next level. “The best moments are watching these amazing, young players come through the program here and then go on to college to succeed,” LoManaco said. “Now, I can watch them play on TV and stay in touch with them and have that lifelong connection with them is pretty special.”
Through her work with the Winkoff’s, LoManaco joined Pastuch as a Nassau girls’ director and she’s excited to give girls opportunities. “I always talk about empowerment and girl power, “LoManaco said. “Growing up, the Empire Games were huge and anyone who was a part of it had a really special memory. The fact that we are able to bring it back, especially to Nassau County where I have been coaching for the last 14 years,and to have four different age groups and teams go up to compete in Albany for a regional championship is so exciting and special and something I’m really excited to be a part of. It means a lot to girls’ lacrosse.”
LoManaco is ready to be back after losing out on a season last year. “[I’m looking forward to] seeing competition,” LoManaco said. “After not being able to have our season and these girls lost a lot of opportunities, to see the competition and where it’s at and the skill level of lacrosse, every year it grows and grows and grows. To see these four age girls compete against other regions, I’m really looking forward to being in that lacrosse world for the weekend. Hopefully, Nassau County brings home the title.”