When Rachel Florenz jumped into the arms of her goaltender Jackie Carty, it was as if a lifetime of wondering “what if” had been relieved.
Florenz, the East Islip dynamic scorer with a knack for the big moment, came through with No. 6 East Islip’s biggest goal of the season, snapping a streak of consecutive first round playoff exits in a 1-0 win over No. 11 North Babylon Monday in the Suffolk AA girls soccer playoffs, earning herself Newsday’s Athlete of the Week.
Florenz and her slight 5-4 frame was able to squeeze through the defenders to field a cross from Lyndsie Brunner with 7:48 remaining in the game and get just enough on the shot for her 16th goal of the season.
“It might have been one of the best moments of my life,” Florenz said, “because it was such a big game.”
After two straight seasons of losing in the first round, Florenz finally led East Islip past that final impeding hurdle. The last game of the previous two seasons motivated Florenz and East Islip, a program which Florenz believes isn’t necessarily viewed as a high school soccer powerhouse.
“We’re definitely viewed as underdogs,” Florenz said. “It definitely played to our advantage because they didn’t realize how good we were, but I think when we stepped on the field, people started to figure it out.”
And the same could be said for Florenz. Her size and frame won’t intimidate many on the field, but the senior’s talent allows her to keep up with just about anybody. The three-year varsity player scored 21 goals as a junior and is committed to play at Stony Brook next fall.
“I think I’m on a little bit of the smaller side for a player and I think people count me out,” Florenz said. “But I think I’m pretty quick which makes up for my size. It kind of helps my play because when people count me out, it makes me want to play harder.”
The offense plays through Florenz. If she’s not starting a run herself, she’s getting position on a defender to strike. As the primary forward, opposing teams put their top defender on her.
Having a player like Florenz has relieved stress off coach Julie Susskind the past few years. And Susskind has seen Florenz emerge into one of the most dangerous playmakers on Long Island.
“The past two years she has just been a different person,” Susskind said. “Coming out and wanting the ball and wanting to be in the mix and wanting to be in the middle of the play in the action. You don’t find that too often when somebody wants the ball and is that confident enough to say ‘Give me the ball now so I can score a goal.’ ”
Exactly as she did to keep East Islip’s season going into the second round.