Go ahead, put two defenders on Marissa Stanco. Put three or four on the junior striker if you want. She’ll still find the back of the net.
Stanco cut through multiple defenders on nearly every touch Friday in the PSAA girls soccer championship, scoring four goals and leading top-seeded Portledge to a 4-2 win over rival Long Island Lutheran at home.
The teams had tied, 1-1 and 6-6, in two previous meetings.
“With all the girls on me, we tried to bring the ball out wide to Lauren Espinal and Nicole Guarino who were playing left and right wing,” said Stanco, who scored a ridiculous 10 goals in three playoff games en route to being named playoff and season MVP. “When the ball goes into them, maybe it can free me up or get them one-on-one on goal.”
That was the plan of coaches Phil Hills and Ed Shone. Stanco is fully capable of handling pressure on her own, but with so many defenders down low, Espinal and Guarino were left with room on the wings.
“That was really our plan, but Marissa just has a way of taking games over,” Hills said. “It’s really hard to mark a player like her for 80 minutes.”
Stanco netted the game’s first score in the 11th minute when Espinal crossed to her just inside the 18-yard box. She slashed through the defense and beat the goalkeeper to the lower left corner.
Second-seeded Lutheran (10-5-3) answered in the 24th minute when Christina Loizou found Alyssa Herrmann, and the two sides went into the half tied at 1.
“There were definitely challenges,” said Portledge keeper Jill Narby, who made eight saves. “We had to deal with a lot up top with their power strikers.”
Portledge (9-1-2) broke through in the second half, as Stanco picked apart double- and triple-teams and scored in the 43rd, 46th and 76th minutes.
The Panthers next play in the NYSAIS Tournament, which begins next week.
It’s a lock that Stanco will be met with more than one defender. The only question is just how many times she’ll score.