The South Side girls soccer team received a halftime speech from an unexpected source last year. It was Crystal Dunn, a highly recognizable alumna.
“It’s the craziest thing,” said Ally Diez, a 2015 Newsday All-Long Island selection. “I remember last year in I think our first-round playoff game she pops up and everyone stops watching our game. All the little kids go around Crystal Dunn. She comes over to us at halftime and gives us a pep talk.”
Dunn, a United States Women’s National Soccer Team member and future Olympian, took time off from her busy training schedule to watch the team she won state championships with in 2006, 2007 and 2009. And she’s not the only Long Island player who donned a United States jersey this summer at the Olympics. Allie Long, who played for Northport from 2001-04, joined Dunn this summer in Rio.
“It’s actually kind of cool because we have somebody to look up to,” said Northport’s Cybele Laisney. “And it’s a goal that everybody kind of looks at and says, ‘Hey, it’s possible.’
“It’s amazing to have someone from home, and there’s a connection there,” Laisney said. “We kind of came from the same beginnings.”
When Dunn spoke with the South Side team at halftime last season, it gave the players added motivation. The Cyclones ended up going on a run to the county championship game before losing to Garden City.
“She definitely got us going for the second half,” said South Side goalkeeper Kayla Klarides. “Just knowing she was there watching as well was something that we felt like we needed to play for her and show her that we’re still the same team we were when you were there.”
“It’s really an inspiration knowing that a superstar like her came out of here,” said South Side’s Juliana Klaum. “It’s motivation for us to keep the legacy going at South Side.”
It also shows the current power of Long Island soccer. Four of the six state championship teams, including the CHSAA, came from Long Island last year.
“Long Island is kind of a powerhouse for soccer,” Klarides said. “So many players here go off and play at college, even at the professional level, so I think it’s just so cool that there’s so many local people fulfilling their dreams and playing at those really high levels. It’s good to hear.”