Kristin Desmond returns to lead Northport girls soccer
She's back . . . and that's bad news for the rest of Suffolk.
Kristin Desmond, the returning Suffolk Player of the Year, is back to build upon her breakout junior season. With her speed, it's hard to keep her in front of you. With her strength, it's hard to push her off the ball. With her skill . . . well, defenders should, perhaps, just get out of her way.
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After scoring 24 goals and leading Northport to a Long Island championship, Desmond and the Tigers seek to take the next step. Forward Natasha Albaneze can shoot from anywhere, Miki Martinov, headed to St. John's, anchors the defense and goalie Jess Rom is known for her spectacular plays. A healthy Kelsey Kearns distributing in midfield could put them over the top.
Ward Melville, with its aggressive ball movement, looks to make a third straight trip to the county final. Amanda Milazzo is a strong central defender, Jennifer Balzan is an instinctive midfielder and Katie O'Connor is a powerful striker.
This could be the year for Commack, which returns 22 players, including 14 seniors. Erin Neville excels with power and speed, and Gianna Carnesi and Casey Dugan are tenacious defenders. Julia Martella and Mallory Dugan will find the net.
West Islip runs its offense through Shannon Walter. Forward Cassidy Rollman is dangerous on balls played over the top and Nicole Crofton leads a pressuring defense. Megan Beak and Shannon Cronin will split time in goal.
East Islip features Kayla Saager, an elite goal scorer. Hauppauge returns leading scorer Keri McCarthy and midfielder Brenna Conover, and sweeper Kristen Ritter anchors a defense that allowed three goals last season.
Longwood has a superstar keeper in Phallon Tullis-Joyce, a solid defender in Natalie Ballato and a scoring threat in Caitlin Sweeny. Sachem East has Samantha Turnbull, a good distributor, and Kayla Jo Gansrow, who can score from distance. Sachem North, after reaching the playoffs, returns mostly intact.
Lindenhurst will be a possession based-team behind playmaker Brianna Doran, Kiersten Gustavson, who distributes well, and Rebecca Conway, a hard tackler. Smithtown West returns Gabby Scirica, who can shoot with either foot.
North Babylon has strong defenders in Casey Fackner and Emily Scheuer, and a blossoming midfielder in Dana Scheriff.
Kings Park has eight returning starters, including Jenn Buoncore, Emily Santoli, Emily Morello and Katie Tuorto. Riverhead, Half Hollow Hills West and Smithtown East will also be competitive.
Islip seeks a third straight county title and has the keeper to do it with Tara Mackey, who excels in the postseason. Senior captain Lauren Sparks will play alongside her sister Lindsay as outside midfielders. Forward Kerri McDonald is dangerous in the box and Mary O'Hara is a solid all-around midfielder.
Sayville has a talented playmaking tandem in midfielders Jessica O'Shaughnessy and Julianne Johnston, both of whom will attack the goal more this season. Harborfields is led by Caroline Wallace, who can create space and shoot with either foot, and defenders Lauren Johnson and Julia Friedman.
Midfielder Nicole Copping does it all for Bayport-Blue Point, a deep team that returns keeper Erica Friel. Miller Place features talented sophomore goalie Danielle Bambola, a starter since eighth grade who has great reflexes.
Defending county champion Babylon returns eight starters and has improved skill. None is more skilled than All-Long Islander Shelby Fredericks, a premier finisher and playmaker. The Panthers will be a possession team with Kaileen Hart, Hallie Merz and Jennifer Gregory.
Claire Brady leads Center Moriches, which will be strong offensively with Casey Luongo and Emily Fey. Port Jefferson, last year's "C" champ, moves up a class but returns its dynamic tandem of Maireid Swords and Olivia Racanelli.
Stony Brook will be the team to beat with the Pius sisters, Morgan and Emily, along with wingback Annie Skorobohaty.
Katelyn Jones and Rebecca Giancana hope to lead Smithtown Christian back to the state tournament.