Kaitlin Conway was given simple instructions when lining up for her free kick. And she executed them to perfection.
"I wanted to hit it as hard as I can and test the goalie," Conway said. "[Coach Tom] Anson was like, ‘Test the goalie,’ so I said ‘OK’ and I just hit it."
Conway sent the 30-yard free kick into the upper far corner of the net with 20:44 remaining in the first half to give host Sachem East a 1-0 victory over West Islip in Suffolk Division I girls soccer Monday.
"I literally said to her ‘Kaitlin, you need to have this on target, you need to test this keeper," Anson said. "She hit the ball well and put it under the bar with the wind at her back, she ripped it as hard as she can. She’s a great player and I’m happy for her."
That goal would be all Sachem East needed.
Avery Lein had five saves in the victory behind a backline including Michaela Barresi, Erica Urbancik, Ava Lovergine, McKayla Gray and Alexandra Gomes Da Silva.
Sachem East, the co-Suffolk Class AA champions last season, have started the fall strong with a 6-1 record. Although this season’s team is younger after graduating a strong senior class, the victories continue to pile up. West Islip falls to 1-3-1.
"It’s a little different," said forward Madison Apicella, a Newsday All-Long Island selection last season. "We’re a young team so everyone had to get into the groove and used to how we play our game. I think it was a little difficult at first but we are starting to get it and I think we are going to go from there."
Sachem East is using last season as motivation and want to return to the final. Sachem East played to a 1-1 draw with Ward Melville in last season’s final, and as there was no state tournament that year, the game didn’t go into penalty kicks and both teams were deemed co-champions.
"Everyone is gunning for us," Anson said. "Everyone is trying to play their best against the defending champion. When you play the defending champion, there’s always a little extra and that’s tough. That’s something we have to deal with, knowing that teams are hunting for us."
Sachem East enjoys the challenge. And even if it’s not their best game, the players are confident they’ll get the result they want.
"It wasn’t our prettiest performance [today]," Conway said, "but good teams always find a way to win and we pulled through."