The Valley Stream South girls soccer team entered this season feeling slighted.
In the players’ eyes, they accomplished more than enough last fall to move up and play higher-ranked competition. But even after a first-place finish in Nassau AB-V, plenty of returning Division-I college talent and pushing the eventual Long Island champions in the opening round of the playoffs, the Falcons found themselves in the same position as the season before.
With Nassau girls soccer using a power-ranking system to generate its conference alignments, the Falcons hoped their previous success would allow them to move up and play more established programs in the county. But that wasn’t the case, with Valley Stream South still competing in Conference AB-V this fall.
“I just said we’ll have to prove our point and that’s what we’ve been doing so far,” junior Bryana Pizarro, who is committed to Mississippi State and has 21 goals and 10 assists this season, said. “It’s definitely been a chip on our shoulder, making us work harder and wanting to prove our point that we are a top team and we should be in a higher division.”
The Falcons have done just that, dominating this season with an 11-0 record, including 8-0 in Nassau AB-V, outscoring opponents 67-1, through Saturday.
Valley Stream South coach Demetri Adrahtas said schools don’t typically make major jumps up or down conferences year-by-year, but he expected the team would move up at least one or two conferences based off last season’s results.
“They were expecting to get a little more attention,” Adrahtas said. “We thought coming into this year, we were going to be the next North Shore, the next Mepham, and we're like ‘We’re still in Conference V? What happened?’ ”
Adrahtas said he was told the Falcons were going to be moved to AB-IV, but after some schools were dropped down from Class AA to A based on enrollment changes, South was kept in AB-V.
But the players have decided to focus on what they can control, introducing a mantra of “We’re all we have and we’re all we need.”
“At the end of the day, everyone put us in the conference and voted us to be in a lower conference, so this team is all we have,” Pizarro said. “We are going to work hard and get what we deserve and that’s all we need.”
Mia Asenjo, a sophomore who transferred back to South after playing at Holy Trinity last season, said a major reason she wanted to return to her hometown school was because she played with the girls on the team since a young age and believed they could accomplish something special in high school. Like the rest of the players, she wasn’t thrilled with the conference alignment, and wishes the team was playing in closer games.
“We’re not mad, we’re just annoyed at the fact that when we blow teams out, the coaches, they complain about it,” Asenjo said. “And we get annoyed and that’s because the reason we are in the conference is because the County put us there.”
With the top players often playing only half of the game, the Falcons have increased the intensity at practice, relying on one another to make each other better and stronger for when the playoffs start against top competition. And the postseason has been what the players have visioned since Day 1.
Last season, South fell to North Shore, 5-3, in the opening round of the Nassau A playoffs. North Shore went on to win the Long Island Class A championship.
“We’ve been looking forward to it since the beginning of the season because we do believe we should be in a higher conference,” five-year starting defender Lindsey Smith, who committed to play soccer and run track at Army, over schools such as Notre Dame and Ohio State, said. “We can compete with all those teams in a higher conference.”
And the Falcons look forward to proving that on the field.
“It definitely gave them a little more motivation, they have an added chip on their shoulder,” Adrahtas said. “And they are like ‘If people don’t care, make them care.' ”