Port Jefferson had been there twice before. No stranger to the girls soccer state championships in Cortland, the defending Class C champions knew what it took to bring home a title.
This time, though, there was a certain finality. Ten players were seniors, and each playoff game could have been their last. Only when they reached final at SUNY Cortland were they assured that it would be their final time on the field together.
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“It’s such a tight group on and off the field — we’re like sisters,” Jillian Colucci said. “Our chemistry is just incredible because we’ve been playing with each other for so long.”See alsoMeet Newsday’s All-Long Island fall teams for 2016
The experience and confidence showed as the Royals ran their way through the regular season. After a draw against Southold/Greenport in mid-September, the team reeled off eight wins, culminating in an 8-0 win over that same Southold team for the Long Island Class C title.
The teamwork forged through the years needed to last another 40 minutes when Port Jefferson found itself trailing Geneseo, 1-0, at halftime in the state championship. The situation was nothing new, after the Royals pulled off a comeback the night before in the semifinal, but now there would only be one more half together, win or lose.
“I think it was the realization that we’re all seniors and we only have 40 more minutes playing together, so we knew we had to give it our all because there was nothing else we could do,” Colucci said.
The Royals scored three times in the span of eight minutes in the second half for a 3-1 lead. Brittany Fazin put in her third goal of the game with five minutes left. Goalkeeper Brianna Scarda and the back line of Alexa Wakefield, Corinne Scannell, Katie Connolly and Camryn Ward completed their streak of 12 consecutive games allowing one goal or less, and the group relished that winning feeling one more time.
“We told each other not to ever let each other down and not to give up,” Fazin said.
The team also credited Michele Aponte, who took over as head coach in mid-season. She had served as an assistant and junior varsity coach.
“She tried to connect with us as best as she could,” Fazin said. “She ended up pulling through and doing an amazing job. She was an incredible coach.”
Aponte said her job was simple enough because when you have 10 seniors who have been through it all three times, you can enjoy the ride.
“They just really made it easy,” Aponte said.