The Valley Stream South girls soccer team discussed playing in the state championship tournament from the very start of the season. The players didn’t care that the program never played in a state title game before, or that strong opponents stood in their way.
The Falcons knew it was simple. If they kept winning, they couldn’t be denied a spot in the postseason. And Valley Stream South did just that, as it enters the state Class A semifinals with a 19-0 record.
“That was definitely a big motivation,” said sophomore midfielder Mia Asenjo. “But regardless anybody being in any conference, we all wanted to get to the same spot and it’s something we wanted to fight for.”
The same could be said for the other two teams representing Long Island in state championships in Cortland after Smithtown West won the Long Island Class AA championship and Wheatley won the Long Island Class B title.
Smithtown West, playing in its first state semifinal, plays Monroe-Woodbury Saturday at 10 a.m. at Tompkins Cortland Community College, and with a win, advances to play the winner of Bethlehem Central/Clarence Sunday at 1:15 p.m. at the same location.
“They’re very hungry for it,” coach Rob Schretzmayer said. “It almost feels like the job’s not done, which is different. We spend so much time trying to get to the county title in the past so when you get there, you feel like you accomplished something. But when it sinks in, you realize there’s a chance for more.”
That chance has been generated by a back line, featuring Natalie Sancilio and Nikki Marshall, that has recorded shutouts in 12 of its final 14 games of the season, including a 1-0 win over Half Hollow Hills East in the Suffolk AA final and a 3-0 win over Syosset in the Long Island championship game.
With Suffolk County girls soccer playing in a “power rankings” system for the first time this season, Schretzmayer said he thinks the team being put up against top competition every game helped learn what works best.
‘It took us a little while to figure out what works most efficiently,” he said. “And I think that helped us figure out what helps the team have the most success.”
And with the combination of Jillian Unkenholz and Jillian Meaney at midfield with Emily Leverich scoring nine goals with six assists on the attack, the Bulls (16-1-3) look to put the pieces together for a state title run.
“She’s the catalyst, she kind of jump starts the momentum in a game just with her energy,” said Schretzmayer about Leverich. “It force teams to have to be good in their own end and helps us to gain momentum offensive.”
Valley Stream South, playing in its first state semifinal since 2000, opens with Vestal Saturday at 3 p.m. at Tompkins Cortland Community College. With a win, the Falcons play for their first state championship against the winner of Jamesville-Dewitt/Spencerport, Sunday at 12:30 p.m. at Cortland High School.
The Falcons reached the finals after a pair of shutout victories over MacArthur (2-0) in the Nassau final and Islip (1-0) in the Long Island Class A championship, with Asenjo scoring all three goals in the finals.
“Big players make the plays when you need them to,” coach Demetri Adrahtas said. “And Mia came through.”
Asenjo enters the state championships with 22 goals and 16 assists, forming a tandem with Bryana Pizzaro totaling 29 goals and 13 assists.
“It’s like living a dream,” Asenjo said. “It’s a crazy feeling.”
Wheatley, advancing to Cortland for the second time in the last three seasons after a 5-4-2 season, plays Chenango Forks Saturday at 10 a.m. at Cortland High School, and with a win will play the winner of Allegany-Limestone/Holland Patent Sunday at 10 a.m. at the same location.
“This is something they started talking about in preseason,” said coach Michelle Santoro. “Every single game, every single practice, we kept going back to Cortland.”
And after a 2-1 victory over Cold Spring Harbor on Lexi Burke’s free-kick goal in double overtime in the Nassau B final and a 2-0 victory over Mattituck/Southold/Greenport in the Long Island Class B championship, the Wildcats are looking for their first state championship in school history.
“The first thing we said when we got in this season was this was the team to take us to states,” said senior goalkeeper Cecilia Jozef, who advanced to Cortland as a sophomore. “Not even talent wise, characteristic wise. We all just get along really well and every game, our goal was to come here and go to states. Every time on that bus, we chanted states and it feels great right now.”
“All this hard work, it’s amazing to see it pay off because it’s something we’ll remember forever,” said Rebecca Sparacio, who scored in the Long Island championship. “It’s an amazing opportunity, I’m just so excited.”