Breena Harrigan (center) is congratulated by her teammates after putting...

Breena Harrigan (center) is congratulated by her teammates after putting Ward Melville up 2-0 over Massapequa at the Long Island Class AAA girls soccer championship in Shoreham on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023. Credit: Peter Frutkoff

 Even though Ward Melville is the defending state champion, the Patriots still felt the need to prove themselves. They want to be known with the best programs in the state, and Saturday was another chance to remind others of that.

 In a matchup against Massapequa, one of the region's powers over recent years, with a trip to Cortland at stake, this was the opportunity the Patriots have waited for all fall.

  “There was a lot of talk,” said Adriana Victoriano, a junior midfielder. “So we wanted to prove we won states last year for a reason and we’re going to win it again.”

 Ward Melville is one step closer to that ultimate goal after defeating Massapequa, 2-0, in the girls soccer Long Island Class AAA championship/Southeast Regional Final at Shoreham-Wading River High School Saturday night.

Ward Melville, the defending state Class AA champions with the opportunity to win the first state Class AAA title in New York girls soccer history, advances to play the winner of Shenendehowa/Cicero-North Syracuse in the state Class AAA semifinals at Tompkins Cortland Community College on Saturday at 5 p.m.

 The Patriots improved to 17-0-3 in a battle of undefeated teams and a rematch of last year’s Long Island Class AA championship, which Ward Melville won en route to its first state title in program history.

 “I was super excited to play [Massapequa] again because I didn’t want anyone to say it was a fluke last year that we beat them,” said Peyton Costello, a senior forward. “Given the fact that they’ve been a great team and won states multiple years, I knew this was going to be a challenge again. Last year wasn’t easy and this year certainly wasn’t easy either.”

 After a scoreless first half, Maddie Costello, Peyton’s younger sister, helped create the game’s first goal. The junior midfielder went on a run past multiple Massapequa players before finding Victoriano. Victoriano then dribbled past multiple players herself before sliding a cross to Peyton Costello, who scored 3:43 into the second half.

 “That was a great run and I didn’t know if [Victoriano] saw me because that was a box full of girls,” Peyton said. “So when she sent that ball, I knew I had to finish that. The first half I shot the ball right at the goalie so I knew I had to redeem myself.”

 Massapequa (14-1-4) nearly broke through with a tying goal via a header and a scramble off a long free kick, but Kate Ronzoni made one of her five saves while on the ground to keep the ball out of the net with a 1-0 Ward Melville lead.

 “I just knew in my head losing wasn’t even an option, I had to make that save,” Ronzoni said. “I couldn’t give them the momentum they needed to keep going. I had to make that save and I did.”

 Breena Harrigan scored the second goal after pressuring the Massapequa goalkeeper attempting to clear the ball. The clearing hit off Harrigan with such power that it rolled into the goal to give Ward Melville a 2-0 lead with 10:38 left in the second half.

 The Ward Melville defense, which includes Sarah Jablonsky, Gabrielle Justiniano, Samantha Ruffini and Alessandra Victoriano, challenged a strong Massapequa offense throughout the contest. Ruffini made a key play on the goal line by keeping a would-be Massapequa goal out of the net with a defensive header with two minutes left.

 “Our backline was stellar,” coach John Diehl said. “We knew they were going to come with a lot of firepower with their long balls and through balls. We knew they were tough but our backline stayed solid and they stayed together, made some amazing plays to save us.”

 Next up, Ward Melville looks to defend its crown and cement itself as one of the top programs in the state.

 “I’m really excited to go back up there,” Peyton said. “I feel like we have more pressure on ourselves because we are defending our titles, but it was a great experience last year and I’m hoping we can win again.”


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