The smiles couldn’t be wiped off East Meadow’s Myla McLeod and Scarlett Espinosa after their first varsity soccer game.
The freshmen duo and best friends don’t need to do much talking between the lines. And their chemistry off the field didn’t take long to equate on a varsity pitch, as Espinosa found McLeod on a cross with 33 minutes remaining in host East Meadow’s 1-0 victory over Manhasset in its non-league girls soccer season-opening game Monday morning.
“I kind of just wanted to go for it and I saw Myla running in and I was like, ‘She’s going to get it in,’ Espinosa said. “I trust her.”
Her trust paid off as McLeod received the pass near two defenders in front of the net and placed the ball to the bottom-right corner for the goal.
“I had to control it with my opposite foot and then I saw ‘Oh, the goal is open’ so I just kicked it in,” McLeod said. “It was great because everyone came over and high-fived, it was great.”
“They’re best friends, they’re two peas in a pod,” coach Adam Hananel said. “They spend a lot of time together so that connection to have them on the same space on the field, they have that chemistry where you don’t need that verbal communication. It’s that nonverbal where you know where each other is, what their tendencies are.”
It’s a moment the two will never forget, being able to combine for the winning goal in their first varsity game. Standout goaltender Stephanie Sparkowski, a sophomore verbally committed to Michigan, still recalls her first varsity game for the Jets.
“That’s really cool because I remember my first varsity game and I remember I got a shutout and it was really exciting for me,” Sparkowski said. “So for them to get a goal and an assist, it’s really cool.”
The starting East Meadow backline of Kayla Leary, Alexa Turnbull, Katie Hernandez and Mary Boyle made it an easy morning for Sparkowski. But the goaltender, who will come up for free kicks and often gets the ball played back to her, is one of the leaders despite her young age.
“She’s only a sophomore and the girls totally look up to her and respect her,” Hananel said. “Just to have her back there, it obviously makes everybody in front of her a little more calm to know you have her as a safety valve.”
After a slower and more evenly controlled first half, East Meadow dominated possession in the final 45 minutes, creating many scoring chances. The Jets, who lost in the Nassau AA quarterfinals last year, hope their experienced defensive line along with exciting, young offensive players will lead to a deep playoff run in Nassau AA-I.
“We’re really excited,” Sparkowski said. “I think we really have a good team this year. Good chemistry and a lot of talented players and I think we’re going to go far.”