The players and coaches on the Ward Melville girls soccer team insisted back-to-back undefeated state championship seasons weren't on the forefront of the team’s mind throughout the season. You can choose to believe that or not, but whatever the Patriots did worked.
Ward Melville defeated Monroe-Woodbury, 4-0, at Tompkins Cortland Community College on November 12 to claim its second straight girls soccer state title. Ward Melville won the inaugural state Class AAA championship this season after winning the state Class AA crown last year. When the clock hit zero after outscoring its opponents 7-0 over two dominant games in Cortland, Ward Melville improved to 36-0-6 over the last two seasons, including 19-0-3 this year.
The Patriots had goals of winning another state championship since the first practice, but they didn't want to get ahead of themselves.
“It was definitely a lot of pressure after the end of last season knowing we wanted to do the same, but we just took it game by game and we played how we wanted to,” said Kate Ronzoni, a junior goalkeeper. “We were humble about it and we just hope we can continue this trend. It’s something we are obviously proud of, but we're going to focus on all the hard work we put in to get there.”
Coach John Diehl said he and assistant coach Louise Williams didn’t discuss the possibility of putting together back-to-back undefeated championship seasons with the team. But they both felt the team had the talent this year of doing just that.
“To go through the two seasons without losing, I still think it’s unreal,” Diehl said. “But the girls are so focused and so dedicated that they just went right to work. But knowing soccer, you just never know what’s going to happen.”
The Ward Melville senior class, consisting of Peyton Costello, Gabrielle Justiniano, Samantha Ruffini and Marissa Tonic, barely know what losing feels like during their varsity tenures. Ward Melville went 11-0-2 in their freshman year, which resulted in winning a co-Suffolk Class AA championship with Sachem East in the shortened 2020-21 varsity season due to reshuffling schedules from the COVID-19 pandemic. Ward Melville lost two games the next season, including falling in the Suffolk Class AA semifinals, before winning back-to-back state titles. Ward Melville is 60-2-11 over the last four years.
“It says a lot about Ward Melville soccer,” said Ronzoni, also a four-year varsity player. “We’ve worked really hard over these years making a statement. The fact we haven’t lost a game [in two years] is something we take pride in as a team.”
This year’s senior class also had something to prove.
“Since we were undefeated last year, we wanted to prove to everyone that even though we lost some great seniors, we weren’t going to let down,” Tonic said. “Two years in a row undefeated and winning states again is just an unreal feeling and for me to be a senior and finish out my career that way is just such a great feeling.”
Diehl remembers being asked by teachers and others if he felt the team could go undefeated and win another state title. He knows the girls heard it, but the coaches didn’t want them to feel that pressure.
“We wondered about the pressure they felt,” Diehl said. “We didn’t want to bring it out and talk about it. But going into next year, I think the girls are motivated to at least try for [a three-peat]. I know they’d like to be there, I don’t think they think it’s a given or a guarantee. They have to earn it and that’s something we always say. You have to earn it.”
Ward Melville's Road To The Championship:
Suffolk Class AAA quarterfinals: Def. No. 8 North Babylon, 1-0
Suffolk Class AAA semifinals: Def. No. 4 Connetquot, 3-0
Suffolk Class AAA championship: Def. No. 6 Smithtown East, 3-0
Long Island Class AAA championship: Def. Massapequa, 2-0
State Class AAA semifinals: Def. Shenendehowa, 3-0
State Class AAA final: Def. Monroe-Woodbury, 4-0