When Wheatley hoisted the Nassau B championship trophy last spring, the Wildcats may not have realized that they’d have to hold it aloft for the entire fall season. And that hardware can become pretty heavy when every opponent is saving its best shot this fall for the Wildcats.
That was the lesson last week when Wheatley was edged by Locust Valley and it had clearly sunk in by the time they arrived at Carle Place on Wednesday. The Wildcats, with their quick-footed ball control style, spent most of the game on the offensive whether playing with the stiff wind or against it and scored a 2-0 Nassau B-1 win over the Frogs in a rematch of the 2020-21 title game.
"After last season’s win in the county championship, we knew they’d be looking to beat us — really everybody is," said Jennifer Thaler, whose goal with 33:29 left to play snapped a scoreless tie. "We have a lot to defend and we have to play inspired every game. Locust Valley showed us that — it was rough — but we know now."
Those in the Wheatley program eschew the word ‘soccer’ for ‘football’ because their game relies so much on ball skills and crisp passing. That was on display as the ’Cats (4-2-0, 2-1-0) held long possessions and methodically moved the ball up the field for scoring opportunities with center midfielder Alex Ofsie steering the offense.
"She’s a special player," Wildcats coach Andrew DeRuvo said. "She’s been a rock.
After a half dozen decent opportunities yielded nothing with the wind at their backs in the first half, the Wildcats finally broke through off a free kick by Sydney Romano. She bent a pass toward the front of the goal mouth and Lexi Burke was able to deflect it to Thaler. Her shot to the lower corner eluded Frogs keeper Jenna Lenihan.
"It was right place and right time for me," Burke said. Added Thaler "I was definitely ready to hit it when it came."
With the wind and a deficit Carle Place (3-1-0, 2-1-0) had some things develop. Paige Selhorn had a hard shot from 15 yards out that Wheatley goalie Jamie Behar saved. And the speedy and dangerous Abigail Lyons took a pair of shots in deep before being foiled by Nicole Ofsie.
In the final minute, Burke left a sweet pass upfield to put Romano in a one-on-one with Lenihan (six saves) for the insurance goal.
"I believe 100% we have what it will take to repeat," Alex Ofsie said. "We’re close knit. We communicate really well. We don’t succeed because of one star player, but because we work together. We know [teams] will come after us, but we’re going to be ready."