Locust Valley, a plucky upstart, lost to Class C finalist Cold Spring Harbor, 10-9, on Thursday. For the Falcons, a moral victory, perhaps.
But it also creates an interesting "If P then Q" equation. If Locust Valley – a team blown out in the first round last year by North Shore, which lost to Cold Spring Harbor in overtime of the semifinals – can come within a goal of the Seahawks then… It means the Falcons have improved; that they’re right in that cluster of Class C contenders.
The removal of ability-based grouping in Nassau this year has brought a greater test of Locust Valley’s ability. And the Falcons, 4-1 overall, have shown that, at the very least, they can hang.
Locust Valley finished 11-3 last season, "but with ability grouping I feel like our level of play wasn’t really tested until the end of the year," coach Kristen Hordy said. They lost, 15-3, to North Shore. "We did our best, but we hadn’t seen them in the regular season and we weren’t ready for that level of competition."
This year, the schools are aligned based on enrollment and all the "C" schools are packed into Conference C. This, of course, will allow the regular season to provide a few playoff preludes. Cold Spring Harbor is a team the Falcons previously would’ve only faced in the postseason.
Locust Valley is now better equipped for the challenge, though they’re a relatively young team with only two seniors.
Their defense is led by senior Zoey Hourihan and junior Courtney Boyd, described by Hordy as “an aggressive defender,” who recently committed to Louisville. Julia Vezza, Emily Schlicht and goalie Soraya Sanjana help make it a strong unit. Midfielders Taylor Bleistein and Stephanie Lucidi spark the offense, and Bairre Reilly (41 points) is among Long Island’s top scorers.
“We’re lucky to have leaders all over,” Hordy said. “The responsibility doesn’t fall on one person, and they all pick each other up.”
Much of the improvement can be attributed to the team’s work before the season and in winter league. They worked on the finer details – draw controls, efficiency within the 8-meter arc – and intangibles, such as chemistry-building.
Inter-squad challenges such as tire rolls and relay races – extreme teamwork-reliant activities - helped promote camaraderie and improve rapport.
“Before we started our season we had a handkerchief and we cut it into small pieces and gave one to each person,” Hordy said. “It's a reminder that everyone is a piece of the fabric.”
The Falcons will face their second big challenge Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. when they visit North Shore.
Tangent: If you're wondering about the headline, that's become my thing when I can't think of a snappy blog headline. It'll be, "The one about ___." Presto!