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Q&A with Northport coach

Northport's Kristi Abbate (9) advances the ball with

Northport's Kristi Abbate (9) advances the ball with an overhead kick in the second half. (Nov. 9, 2011) Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

When it came to Northport girls soccer over the past few seasons, a sentence that started with the words Kristi Abbate commonly ended with the words Rosy Hayes.

The chemistry between Abbate, the playmaker, and Hayes, the finisher, created arguably the most dangerous tandem in Long Island, as they combined for 22 goals and 13 assists this season. They led Northport to a League II title with a 12-1-1 record and carried the team to its first county championship game in five years. But the duo came up just short of a county title as Northport fell 1-0 to Ward Melville on Wednesday.

The Tigers had no trouble creating opportunities but they couldn’t manage to get one past the Ward Melville defense and keeper Ally Ramos, who had 15 saves. The Northport defense, led by senior captain Sara Ronde and sophomore keeper Jessica Rom, who had five saves, also held their own against a talented Ward Melville team that accounted for both Northport losses this season.

Abbate moves on to George Washington University and Hayes to Loyola, but they leave the team in the capable hands of Cortney Fortunato, Natasha Albaneze, Aaliya Ingram, Kristin Desmond and others.

Newsday caught up with Northport coach Aija Gipp to reflect on the county championship game and the season:

Considering all the opportunities the team created, how tough was the 1-0 loss?
“I think the toughest part about the loss what that we dominated so much of the game. We controlled it and had so many opportunities. We just came short on so many of those opportunities…It was heartbreaking because not only were the seniors crying and so emotional. To have juniors and sophomores having the same feeling because the girls were so close and enjoyed playing together and had so much chemistry. It was hard to watch.”

Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently in the game?
“As a coach you always think about that. My only option would have been to pull up one of my four backs and put them up top to do a 3-3-4 in the last few minutes. Maybe I should have but I don’t know.”

Ward Melville was the only team to beat Northport this season, what made them such a difficult match-up?
“I know that the keeper for Ward Melville (Ally Ramos) is teammates with a couple of the girls on my team (in club ball). I don’t know if that played a factor in it. But she held that team together, she did a great job.”

How do you view the season overall?
“I really can’t be disappointed. They were an amazing group of girls. We hadn’t been to a county final in five years so to get here was great. It’s just disappointing because they had the potential to be state champs. They were that good. To come up short is disappointing but it doesn’t take away from all the accomplishments they have had all season.”

What have Kristi Abbate and Rosy Hayes meant to the program?
“I think they definitely established a legacy. They’re leaving behind this legacy that all these younger girls have looked up to. Looking to the future, it’s going to be a huge impact on these younger girls because they really looked up to them and admired them. Hopefully they’ll try to be what they were and do what they did for Northport.”

Abbate was dominant on Wednesday, what did you think of her performance?
“I think that was the best game I have ever seen her play. Obviously her strengths are that she can beat one player, two players, three players, four players. She can beat whoever she wants in the middle of that field and she has the confidence to do it. She’s not concerned if anybody double teams her, it just drives her to be that much better…This was the first year that she really was healthy all year and I think it just showed by the end of the season. She had an amazing season.”

What was your message to the team after the game?
“That sometimes the best team doesn’t win. They had no reason to put their head down because they played with all their heart, they played with all they had. As a coaching staff, we couldn’t have asked them to do anything more. They did everything they needed to do, the cards just didn’t fall our way for whatever reason. We couldn’t have been more proud of their composure and the way they played.”

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