By: Sean Farrell – Record Sports Staff
Alexa Tsahalis brings up the word from time to time.
Not too long ago, she was one of them.
Winning championships at Saddle River Day, the smallest school in the state to have girls lacrosse, seemed like a faraway dream.
She was wrong.
The Rebels made history this spring by winning their first sectional title.
“Everybody doubted us as a small school with only one player on the bench,” Tsahalis said. “I still can’t believe it actually happened. In my years of high school, I didn’t think Saddle River Day would be winning state sectionals. I’m so proud of that day. Every time I think of that game – winning and having my team gather to jump in a circle in the middle of the field – it’s still a happy thought. I’ll never forget that.”
Tsahalis is the Villanova-bound superstar who put her faith in Saddle River Day as its lacrosse program was just getting off the ground.
When the Rebels started, Tsahalis was in seventh grade.
But she was drawn in by the school’s strong academics and the early direction of the team.
Some of the growing pains she expected never came.
“It’s been the best decision I’ve made,” Tsahalis said. “I knew the girls lacrosse team would be good one day. Where we are now is incredible considering how far we’ve come.”
Tsahalis went into this spring, eager to contribute again.
A serious injury cost her what could have been a huge sophomore year.
She needed surgery after shattering multiple bones in her left thumb in one of the first games.
Two pins in her hand and a protective glove helped her get back on the field in late May.
But by then, the season was just about over.
“She had something to prove from last year being injured,” coach Karen McMahon said. “She was really excited. We anticipated having a strong team so she wanted to contribute as much as she possibly could. I think she did that, and then some.”
Getting Tsahalis back was the final ingredient to the Rebels’ winning formula.
An offense that started with two proven stars – in Jackie Wolak and Michaela McMahon – became even deeper and more versatile.
Each player added a different wrinkle to form the highest-scoring trio in North Jersey.
Tsahalis fit right in, getting 78 goals and 21 assists on the season.
Defenses had a hard time dealing with her size and speed, as she would constantly move and cut to the net.
The biggest games only seemed to bring out the best in her.
She killed off some of the final seconds in the North 1, Group 1 final with a late steal.
“She just came out on fire when we really needed her most,” Karen McMahon said. “She had a drive to try to get us as far as we could.”
For Tsahalis, it’s exciting to think about the future.
She is just getting better, and the team around her looks to be doing the same.
Wolak and Michaela McMahon are coming back.
Many of the unsung heroes from the championship team return as well.
The Rebels are a force to be reckoned with, and there’s no doubt about that anymore.
“It’s all uphill from here,” Tsahalis said. “As long as we keep working hard and improving, Saddle River Day can do some amazing things.”