For most programs, winning five consecutive state championships seems to be outside the realm of possibility. For the St. Anthony’s girls soccer team, it is a sweet reality.
When the halftime horn sounded at Aviator Field in Brooklyn during St. Anthony’s CHSAA Class AA state semifinal match with Xaverian, the team trailed 1-0.
“They weren’t giving the necessary effort. I told them it was our worst half of soccer,” coach Sue Alber said. “I asked them if they wanted to be a team remembered for losing in the semifinals, or if they wanted to get the championship.”
A minute into the second half it was evident a different team had arrived. Senior Ashley Kozlowski scored to tie it, then added two more goals to propel the Friars to a 3-2 victory.
“We had an aggressive talk at halftime and, starting the second half, we just all reconnected,” Kozlowski said. “We scored right out of the half and showed them who St. Anthony’s really is.”
The momentum created in that half carried over to the championship game the next day, where the Friars posted a dominant 6-0 win over St. Mary’s (Lancaster) to claim their fifth consecutive state championship. Kozlowski, Lauren Fisher, Samantha Markey, Daniela Monzon, Avrie Nelsen and Leana Ruiz each scored a goal.
“That game was our best performance start to finish,” Alber said. “That’s what you want, you want to peak in the finals. Everyone was locked in, and everyone contributed.”
The Friars hadn’t suffered a loss in 45 consecutive matches since the 2019 season, before falling to Albertus Magnus in October. Four games later the team suffered its first league loss since 2015, a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Sacred Heart.
“The game against Sacred Heart was unlike one I’ve ever played at St. Anthony’s, I can’t remember being scored on consecutively that quickly.” senior goalkeeper Madalyn Salkowsky said.
Resilience was a key trait for this group that separated it from its predecessors. The disappointment of those losses could’ve fractured the group, but they turned those feelings into determination.
“We knew next time we had to come out strong to prevent what happened last time,” Kozlowski said. “We’re really not used to being scored on like that.”
The Friars were matched up with Sacred Heart again with a chance to win their sixth consecutive crown in the Nassau-Suffolk CHSAA AA title game. Aside from a title being on the line, so was redemption. St. Anthony’s won the rematch 1-0 as Salkowsky made seven saves and Nelsen scored.
“I’ve never had more of an edge than I did coming into that game,” Salkowsky said. “We were more together and united than ever and I don’t know if we would’ve been that way if we didn’t lose earlier.”
The Friars endured more bumps in the road on their ride this time, but ultimately they ended up right where they believed they would.
“There’s a legacy to uphold here, but we know we had to do it our own way” Salkowsky said. “We were able to climb over the losses and achieve what we wanted to from the beginning.”