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Come together: Massapequa girls soccer's journey to state championship

Massapequa poses for a photo after their win

Massapequa poses for a photo after their win against Shenendehowa in the 2021 NYSPHSAA Girls Soccer Championships Class AA final in Cortland, N.Y., Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021. Credit: Adrian Kraus

What started on a youth soccer field ended on a state championship pitch.

Starting to play a sport at a young age in a community program isn’t exclusive to Massapequa. But in girls soccer, club teams can play a major influence on players as they get older. No longer are you just playing with neighbors and elementary school classmates, it’s with players from all over Long Island -- sometimes even the Northeast Region.

A community like Massapequa with rich girls soccer history is accustomed to players coming and going out of youth programs. But they all reconnect on the varsity field. And even if some years have passed, it’s like they never left the Massapequa Soccer Club.

"We had a few years that none of us really played together but once school ball started back up, it was almost like we never left," senior Jess Lynskey said. "It was like we still had that same chemistry and bond on the field and it just brought back so many memories to playing when we were little."

That connection shined through a 20-0-1 season for Massapequa, capped off with a 3-0 victory over Shenendehowa in the girls soccer state Class AA championship at SUNY Cortland November 14.

"Back then is when it started," recalled senior Lia Howard. "That’s when we started building our chemistry and when we were older, we were all better soccer players and more experienced and it brought an even better connection on the field."

Massapequa started eight seniors this season, and coach Bruce Stegner credited the team’s experience to bringing home the program’s first state title since 2015 and eighth overall.

"It’s one of those things where you have leaders that want to work hard every day and set an example for everyone," Stenger said. "It makes it a lot easier on the coaches."

The eight starting seniors (Mary Stork, Julia Gagliano, Mia Baldinger, Thalia Morisi, Gianna Savella, Nicole Kilkenny, Howard and Lynskey) were focused before the season on being the core to bring Massapequa back to its state-championship glory.

"I think no matter what happened in our lives, no matter what teams we were on or what we went through when that core of girls was together during high school soccer, everything else was put aside," Baldinger said. "We just focused on each other and really embraced every moment we had with this group."

Massapequa didn’t just win a state championship, it dominated throughout the season. Sixteen of its 20 wins came by multiple goals and Massapequa outscored opponents, 87-16, this fall. The team also sports a 33-1-1 record over the last two seasons after falling to Syosset in the Nassau Class AA final last season.

"I know we wanted redemption and we wanted to win back what was ours," Savella said. "And I think the expectations for years to come is to match our success from this year."

Many of this year’s core players remember watching former Massapequa squads win state championships -- some players were even ball girls during those years. They drew inspiration from them and hope future athletes will feel the same way.

"To think that we could have been those girls to younger girls this year, it’s just an amazing feeling to be a role model," Howard said. "Hopefully, when they are our age now, they are going to look back and say, ‘Wow, now I’m that role model."

From just learning the game at 5 years old to mastering it during later years and capping it all off with a state title, the Massapequa girls soccer team couldn’t imagine a better ending.

"It’s really amazing to have played together when we were young and then to finish it this year together," Howard said. "We used what we learned all throughout our childhood and we translated it onto the field and it was a great outcome for us."

Massapequa’s Road To The Championship

Nassau Class AA championship

Syosset, 3-1

Long Island Class AA championship

Smithtown West, 2-1

State semifinal

Penfield, 3-0

State championship

Shenendehowa, 3-0

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