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DelaCruz, Albanese help Wantagh hand Calhoun first loss of season, 2-0

Wantagh handed Calhoun its first loss of the season with a 2-0 win in Nassau A-I girls soccer action at Wantagh High School on Tuesday. (Credit: Newsday / Owen O’Brien)

Don’t tell Isabella DelaCruz you can’t use your hands on a soccer field.

The Wantagh midfielder offers the girls soccer team an option not many teams on Long Island can turn to -- a rocket throw-in with laser precision. Look no further than Wantagh’s first goal in its 2-0 home victory over previously undefeated Calhoun in Nassau A-I Tuesday for proof.

Less than seven minutes into the contest, DelaCruz jogged over to the sideline near the corner, took the ball over her head, ran up and launched a throw reaching the net, which Brianna Derham tapped in for the game’s first goal.

“It’s a weapon at all times from all aspects of the field,” coach James Polo said. “She can throw it in and we can finish it. We’ve been working on it all year and today we finally finished it.”

DelaCruz credited her time as a cheerleader to building strength and flexibility in her back, helping her ability to make deep throws.

“It’s been like the one thing I’m really good at in soccer,” DelaCruz said. “If the teams don’t know it’s coming, it’s almost like another corner kick.”

And with a matchup against defending Nassau AA runner-up Calhoun, which dropped down to Class A due to enrollment, Wantagh wanted to utilize every advantage it had Tuesday.

One of those being chemistry, especially the forward combination of senior captains Caitlin Albanese and Ashley Gendels. With 14:56 remaining in the game, Gendels crossed a ball to the middle of the net, which Albanese headed in to give Wantagh a 2-0 lead.

“We’ve been working together since first grade,” Albanese said. “We’ve been the duo up top. We know where the other is anywhere on the field.”

“We try it every game,” Gendels added. “Today it worked.”

And nothing has been easy this season for Gendels, who said she is playing through a sprained ACL and MCL. Gendels said she tries to forget about it during the game, but Polo is amazed at her resolve.

“She’s probably one of the toughest athletes I’ve ever coached, male or female,” Polo said. “She’s just a tough, tough, Wantagh Warrior and I love every bit of it.”

The Warriors (2-3-2) have taken on an underdog mentality, Gendels said, and wanted to prove themselves against a top program, such as Calhoun (6-1-1). With 11 saves from Erin Murphy and strong backline play from Katelyn Tucker, Emma Benedetto, Olivia Vinson and Maggie L’Eplattenier, Wantagh did just that.

“Now everyone’s going to look and say ‘Wantagh, who are they?’” Albanese said. “No one thought of us before and now we’re rising up.”

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