It’s hard to find a better postseason tune-up match than one between nationally ranked, undefeated girls soccer teams.
Host St. Anthony’s defeated Northport, 2-0, Friday in a non-league game less than a week before each team begins the postseason ranked as No. 1 teams in their respectively leagues.
“We definitely needed this game as a practice for the playoffs,” said St. Anthony’s Francesca Picicci, “because the playoffs are not going to be easy.”
Picicci got the scoring started for the two-time defending state champions with a penalty-kick goal with 24:48 remaining in the first half after Sam Roth drew a foul while beating two defenders to get into the 18-yard box.
“I was very nervous,” Picicci said. “I thought I was going to miss, but I took my time and hit a nice shot in the back of the net.”
The St. Anthony’s back line, which has played a prominent role in nine shutout wins and has yet to allow more than one goal in a game, had another strong performance led by defensive center-midfielder Jaclyn Louro.
“It was definitely very intense,” Louro said. “It was challenge to every single ball. We really had to shut down their players as soon as they got to the ball.”
Sabrina Cristodero scored St. Anthony’s second goal off a through ball from Roth with 27:52 remaining in the game. Cristodero took an initial shot off her left foot, which Northport goalkeeper Emma Havrilla saved, but Cristodero corralled the rebound and shot from 10 yards out with her right foot to the top-right corner of the net.
“Everyone was really pumped up to play this game,” Picicci said. “We knew they were undefeated and so were we and we really wanted to beat them.”
Northport has lost only one regular-season match since the start of the 2013 season, but has lost in the county semifinal each of the last two seasons.
“They were an extremely good opponent,” said St. Anthony’s coach Sue Alber. “One of the toughest we’ve played all year.”
St. Anthony’s (14-0, 11-0 CHSAA) hosts Kellenberg Wednesday at 3:45 p.m. in the CHSAA semifinal and Northport (15-1, 14-0 Suffolk II) hosts Whitman Monday at 2:30 p.m. in the Suffolk AA round of 16.
Now with St. Anthony’s less than a week away from its playoff game, the Friars look to continue their undefeated season all the way to a third-straight state title.
“To go undefeated is not an easy task especially playing national and regionally ranked teams,” Alber said, “so I think it’s a good confidence boost going into Wednesday.”