“Wait till next year” may have finally arrived for some of Long Island’s top girls soccer teams who have found themselves one step behind of the perennial dynasties.
Take Nassau A, where only South Side and Garden City have won league championships in this millennium. Could this be the year of the overthrow?
North Shore, whose playoff run was ended by Garden City in each of the last two seasons, is one team feeling confident about a more grand result.
The tables could turn in Suffolk, too, thanks in part to some enrollment changes that bring powerful Kings Park, East Islip and Hauppauge into Class A.
“Coming into this season, we’re like, ‘We got Garden City this year,’” North Shore forward Izzy Glennon said. “That’s our motivation.”
Led by Glennon and University of Miami commit Selena Fortich, the Vikings move from ABC-II to ABC-I in Nassau’s ability based league alignments.
“I love playing with the big dogs because I think even if you’re at the bottom, you’re getting better,” coach Lauren Gotta said. “And there’s always competition.”
“It’s a much faster game,” Fortich said. “Bigger players and overall, more athletic people.”
But North Shore isn’t the only underdog motivated by last season. Manhasset, 3-3-5 in Nassau ABC-I last year, lost to South Side, 5-1, in the county semifinals and the team hasn’t forgotten about that contest. Before each practice, the girls run five sprints as a reminder of the five goals allowed. With eight seniors, highlighted by forward Halle Palmedo and defenders Olivia Wesch and Laura Ferraris, Manhasset hopes to challenge at the top of the conference.
“I think there’s a little bit of ‘It’s the last chance’ for my seniors,” Manhasset coach Chris Keen said. “We’re sick of being second fiddle to those teams and being treated in the group below, and we want to be in that conversation with them and we want to be there at the end of the season hoisting that trophy.”
“I think this year we’re just so pumped up because most of us have been on the team 4-5 years,” said Palmedo, who will miss the first few weeks of the season with an injury. “I think we’re just all ready to make it far and go all the way.”
The rest of the conference is filled with talented, as Wantagh returns a tremendous trio in goalkeeper Julianna King, forward/midfielder Julianna Kissane and defender Casey O’Connor after suffering a penalty-kick loss to Garden City last year in the semifinals. Lynbrook returns an experienced group, led by forward/midfielder Gina Giovinco.
But despite the changes, South Side and Garden City will certainly still be dangerous teams with strong, talented players. Garden City returns Jackie Morris, a key figure of a defense last season that didn’t allow a goal in the first 460 minutes of last year’s postseason. South Side, the winner of 13 county titles since 2000, returns midfielder Alex Chruma, midfielder/defender Olivia Rodriguez and forward Jolie Creo on a team looking to keep the program’s tradition going strong.
“Our motto every season is dream big,” Wesch, of Manhasset, said.
This season, they won’t be the only ones looking to make those dreams a reality.
In Suffolk, Islip coach Mike Reilly would like to see his team return to its 2015 state championship glory after suffering its first 2016 loss in the county title game.
“No question, League V is the toughest league this year,” Reilly said. “With that being said, I do believe Class A is wide open right now. It seems like every team has those two to three top players that can win a game for any team at any time.”
Islip will be strong with returning All-Long Island selection Hannah Franco and defending Suffolk A champions Mount Sinai feature Caiya Schuster, who returns to her natural position at midfield after playing goalie last year. Samantha Hogan (Kings Park), Nicole Scudero (Hauppauge) and Jill Mapley (Westhampton) are three players that can change a game in a moment.