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St. Anthony's girls wanted to send Dave Prutting out with state title

St. Anthony's defeated Christ the King in the

St. Anthony's defeated Christ the King in the the CHSAA high school girls soccer state final on Nov. 10, 2014. Photo Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

This was the best St. Anthony's girls soccer team ever.

That assertion could be brushed off as a wild overstatement, an uneducated assumption or a biased exaggeration. It could prompt the response: "Well, you never saw the 1987 Friars play!"

But when Dave Prutting is the one who's saying it, well, that gives it a little more credibility.

"They were the best because they had so much talent and still worked harder than any team I've ever coached," said Prutting, who retired as coach of the Friars last month after winning 437 games and 21 state championships in 27 years.

So this team had something of a save-the-best-for-last feel to it, not just for Prutting, but for the seniors on the team.

"This team was so special because we all wanted it for each other," said Mackenzie Kober, who had seven goals and 12 assists this season. "We didn't have any weak points on the field. And we were determined to win back the state title."

They did just that, cruising to a 6-0 win over Christ the King to reclaim state supremacy and complete a dominant, unbeaten season in which they outscored opponents 82-6.

"We put all the finishing touches together," Francesca Venezia said. "We set our goals and knew what it was going to take and made sure we did it."

Making sure the season concluded with a state championship was of particular importance to the Venezia sisters, Francesca and Niccola, because they knew the next time they'd be on the same field would be as opponents in college.

Niccola, a first-team All-Long Island senior midfielder, is headed to the University of Miami. Francesca, a junior forward who made second-team All-Long Island, verbally committed to Boston College. Both teams play in the ACC, which means the Venezia Bowl will be played sometime in the fall of 2016.

"It will be weird to see Francesca on the other side of the field," Niccola said. "But we are both competitive so it should be interesting."

The two were key components for the Friars (18-0-1), a possession team that featured constant movement and played to feet while advancing the ball upfield.

With so many offensive weapons -- including Sabrina Cristodero, Kayla Arestivo and Miranda Ozimek -- the Friars' defense often was provided early leads to protect. Behind goalkeeper Kelly DiGregorio, and a back line that featured the likes of Kaitlin Loughren, Rebecca Safranek, Katrina Friedman, Alex Mazzucca and Emma Kechejian, the Friars trailed in only one game all season -- a 1-1 draw with fellow state champ Massapequa.

"We did a very good job of protecting the girl behind us," Loughren said. "We made sure that whoever was stepping forward was covered and we weren't leaving anyone out to dry . . . We accomplished what we wanted to do and had a ton of fun doing it."

How does it feel to know that of all of Prutting's 21 state championship teams, he said this one was the best?

"It makes us feel really special because there have been a lot of great teams that have come through this program," Niccola Venezia said. "It was most definitely the best team I've ever played on."

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