Here are 10 storylines to follow for the 2016 girls soccer playoffs on Long Island:
1. Can anyone in Nassau take out Massapequa?
Before answering “no,” keep in mind the three-time defending state champions lost its first conference game since 2013 with a 4-3 loss to Oceanside and tied Calhoun in the final game of the season. But postseason soccer in no mystery to the Chiefs (8-1-1), which have won 12 of the last 13 county titles and four of the last six Class AA Long Island championships. Led by Hope Breslin and her Long Island-best 28 goals, Massapequa could very well be on its way a 13th of 14 county titles and an unprecedented fourth straight state championship.
Or could another team shock the county? South Side or Garden City has won every Nassau Class A championship in the 21st century, with the Cyclones finishing the season on top 13 of 16 years. But the Trojans are the defending champions after defeating South Side in last season’s final. South Side (6-0-4), led by Ally Diez, Juliana Klaum, Alex McNicholas and goalkeeper Kayla Klarides, and Garden City (6-3-2) with the strong backline including Megan Seel, Kate Farrell and two-way midfielder in Katherine Galzerano could be on a collision course for another great county final. But don’t discount Manhasset (3-3-5 including ties with South Side and Garden City) or Wantagh (3-3-4 with a win over Garden City).
3. Who’s the scariest team in Suffolk I?
In what’s been one of the most competitive leagues on Long Island this season, the top of Suffolk I has beaten up on each other throughout the league with fantastic playoff-caliber soccer. The top three teams (Commack, Ward Melville, Sachem East) failed to sweep the other. Commack -- fresh off an undefeated first 18 games last season before a loss in the semifinals -- looks as dangerous as ever, its only league loss this season coming to Ward Melville. The Patriots’ only hiccup came in consecutive losses to Commack and Floyd midseason, and the toughness of Megan Raftery in the defense doesn’t make scoring easy for anybody. Sachem East has tied Commack and Ward Melville, behind Brooke Papele’s 13 goals and Shannon Hearty in net. But don’t sleep on Floyd, which after a five-win 2015 has resurfaced this season with eight league wins led by Amber Birchwell’s 25 goals.
4. Will Northport re-emerge on top?
With only one regular-season loss since the start of the 2013 season, Northport has been a staple among the best teams in Suffolk AA girls soccer. Led by a stout defense and 2015 league MVP Stephanie Rapp, the Tigers could be on their way to their first title since 2013. Ten of their 15 wins in an undefeated season so far have come by three goals or more.
But with dangerous teams in Suffolk I along with Smithtown West (13-0-1) and Deer Park (13-0-1) undefeated in Suffolk III and IV, respectively, nothing is a given for the Tigers.
5. Can Deer Park keep going?
Don’t look now, but Deer Park girls soccer is undefeated. After making the playoffs last season as a No. 12 seed and pulling the upset over No. 5 Ward Melville, Deer Park won’t be surprising teams now. They haven’t always appeared dominant -- winning six games by one goal -- but the back line’s success along with Jenna Schultz’s poise in net has Deer Park embarking on this magical run.
6. Can Islip go back-to-back?
The Buccaneers won their first state championship last season after winning their eighth county championship in 14 seasons under coach Mike Reilly. And even with New York State championship MVP Lyndsey Sparks sidelined with a foot fracture, Islip continues to roll with a 12-0 record. Islip’s balanced offense is highlighted by Hannah Franco (11 goals, 12 assists) and Delaney Kissane (seven goals, 11 assists) and a back line that has allowed multiple goals in a game only once this season. But the Buccaneers can’t look ahead to the Long Island championship yet. Mount Sinai (8-2-2) and Shoreham-Wading River (8-2-2) are dangerous teams out of Islip’s Suffolk VI and Harborfields in undefeated in Suffolk V (10-0-2).
7. Can anyone knock off Port Jefferson?
Led by Jillian Colucci, and her 22 goals and 14 assists this season, Port Jefferson looks to take back-to-back state championships.
The Royals advance straight to a regional game on Saturday, Nov. 5 and with a victory will advance to SUNY Cortland for the state semifinal. With a 12-1-1 record and the only loss coming in a 3-2 game against Newfield (a Suffolk AA playoff team), Port Jefferson’s offensive firepower of Colucci, Brittany Fazin and Clare O’Connor will be hard to stop on the path to another state crown.
8. Who are the potential bracket-busters in Class AA?
Nassau County girls soccer uses power rankings to create conference in the regular season, meaning conference AA-I is where most of the starpower usually lies.
With teams such as Calhoun, Port Washington, East Meadow and Oceanside beating up on each other all season in conference play behind Massapequa in first place, there’s no clear No. 2 in Nassau AA. Hicksville has put together an impressive 8-1-1 record winning Nassau AA-II.
In Suffolk, Bay Shore (8-3-2) is led by Talani Barnett, verbally committed to Ohio State, as a terrific two-way midfielder. In Suffolk III, Newfield’s extremely physical play of soccer has taken Smithtown West into double overtime twice, led by a backline of Olivia Veintimilla, Vaneeya Volino, Rebecca Regensburger and Taylor Regensburger and one of the best goalkeepers on Long Island in Alexis Saladino. Also, North Babylon has consistently proven to be a team to watch. From Suffolk IV, East Islip with Jackie Carty in net and Rachel Florenz leading the offense along with Kings Park could prove dangerous.
9. Another year of St. Anthony’s?
The two-time defending state champions appear ready to make it three after an undefeated 11-0 CHSAA season, but getting off Long Island isn’t as a given.
Sacred Heart has had great play all season from Caitlin Kennedy, who leads the league with 23 goals and Kellenberg and St. John the Baptist often provide tough matchups. But St. Anthony’s one-two punch of Francesca Picicci and Sabrina Cristodero could very well lead to another Long Island CHSAA state championship on Oct. 29 at 5 p.m. at Adelphi before another state tournament appearance.
10. Where and when are the title games?
Nassau AA, A, and B play a tripleheader at Cold Spring Harbor High School on Tuesday, Nov. 1, starting with Class B at 2 p.m., shortly followed by Class A and closing up with Class AA.
Suffolk B crowns its champion 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 28, and Suffolk A and AA play in a doubleheader at St. Joseph’s College on Tuesday, Nov. 1 with AA at 4 p.m. and A at 6:30 p.m.
The CHSAA championship is Saturday, Oct. 29 at 5 p.m. at Adelphi.
The Long Island championship games will be played in a tripleheader at St. Joseph’s College on Nov. 4, starting with Class B at 1:30 p.m., Class A at 4 p.m. and Class AA at 6:30 p.m.
The state semifinals and championship will be held Nov. 12-13 in Cortland.