Sometimes the wisdom of a decision isn’t fully appreciated until years after it is made.
No need to tell that to the Southold/Greenport girls soccer coach, Katy Smith. Smith recognized that bringing five freshmen onto her first varsity team three years ago would pay off in the long run. “I did something right in bringing those freshmen up,” she said.
That payoff could come this year for the Clippers (8-4-2 last season), who have missed reaching the playoffs by one game in each of the past two years. The team last made it to the playoffs in 2009.
“I think we’re finally ready to make it to playoffs,” winger Cindy Van Bourgondien proclaimed. “It’s been so long.”
And the Clippers are still a young group, with only three seniors: all-conference center midfielder Justina Babcock, winger Leah LaFreniere and Van Bourgondien. Babcock and Van Bourgondien are entering their fourth varsity season.
Isabella Simon, a junior sweeper, was an all-league pick last year. The defense, including stopper Rosemary Volinski and fullback Michaela Manno, will protect goalkeeper Masha Winkler, who was promoted to the varsity team last year as a freshman. “She definitely rose to the challenge,” said Smith.
Julie Van Gorden, a winger/striker, and Megan Van Bourgondien, a center midfielder who is Cindy’s cousin, were starters last season. The Clippers hope Laurel Sutton and Michelle Innamorato will add punch to the front line. Two players who sat out last season with injuries, winger Ajsia Martocchia and forward Jasmine Fell, are undoubtedly eager to play again.
“I think the chemistry is tremendously better,” Smith said. “They’re all pulling their own weight.”
“Their physical ability is there, and the skill,” she added. “I really look forward to seeing what these girls do.”
Malynda Nichol is no stranger to adversity, and that may be why she is the new Mattituck coach, taking over for Pete Hansen, who left the school after one year.
Adversity is part of the package. It’s something the Tuckers have to deal with nowadays.
The fact that the Tuckers graduated 12 players from last year’s team may be the least of their problems. Once a virtual soccer factory that received a steady supply of talented players through club soccer, that supply has dwindled dramatically for a variety of reasons. Last year Mattituck did not have enough players for a junior varsity team, so the school fielded only a varsity team. A considerable number of players saw little or no playing time for the senior-loaded team. Mattituck went 7-8, losing to Babylon in a Suffolk County Class B outbracket game.
While Mattituck has a junior varsity team, coached by Kim Gerstung, back this year, the varsity players bring a mixed bag of talent and experience. “We see some good things already,” Nichol said, “but we have a lot of different levels.”
Nichol played at a high level herself. She was a player in the Olympic Development Program, a forward for Penfield High School outside of Rochester and an outside midfielder for George Washington University. She also played semipro soccer for the Rochester Ravens, but her playing career was hampered by six knee operations.
Now, in her first high school varsity coaching job, she is facing a new challenge.
Mattituck is counting heavily on two juniors, sweeper Nicole Zurawski and forward Abby Graeb, for their abilities and experience. The rest of the players have seen little to no varsity action up to this point. Zurawski, who is already in her fourth varsity year, is regarded as an NCAA Division I-caliber player.
Catherine Hayes, a freshman midfielder, sat out last season with a concussion. Also seen as potential starters are stopper Kyle Freudenberg, defender Madison Kent, defender Sara Pfennig, midfielder/forward Patricia Brisotti, midfielder Sam Stapon, midfielder Kellie Stepnoski, goalkeeper Val Hommel, midfielder Amy Macaluso and forward/midfielder Rachel Winkler.
Nichol said she is unsure where Courtney Murphy, who is recovering from a hip flexor injury, will play. The team has other options in forward Isabel Torgrove, goalkeeper Emma Fasolino and stopper/midfielder Hannah Fitzgerald.
“It’s taking some time, but the girls are showing great promise,” Nichol said. “I see the passion is there, and I’m excited.”
She added: “They want to win and they want to learn. We want to bring the soccer program back up to where it was.”