PANTHERS 1, CLIPPERS 0
Her team just dropped a hard-fought game to Babylon, but Southold/Greenport girls soccer coach Katy Smith hardly sounded like someone whose side was on the short end of a 1-0 result Tuesday afternoon.
The game was a marked improvement over the last time these two teams met on Sept. 18, when the Panthers recorded a 3-0 win.
“They played amazing,” Smith said. “As I said to them at the end of the game, ‘Whether you win a game or lose a game, you still take something away from it.’ Even though we lost, we still won in a certain way because we played better than the first time we played against them. To have a low scoring game like that against the top team in our league, they can pull a win away from that in their mind and in their hearts as well.”
In fact, Smith said that “this is probably the best game we’ve played all season.”
“Their skill has always been there in the games, but we have lacked aggression,” she said. “You would think in 15-, 16-year-old girls, that’s a good thing. On the soccer field, I need to pull some of the aggressiveness out of them. They’re a very calm team. Today was the first day that I actually really saw them throughout the entire game win those 50-50 balls in the air and actually go and play and win those balls where sometimes we would lay back, let them get control and go after it.”
Now it’s really time to go after it.
With five games remaining in their Suffolk League VII season, the Clippers (4-5-1, 4-4-1 League VII) need to take what they learned from the game to reach the Class C tournament.
“We still have a pretty good chance and definitely playing like this, it gives us confidence,” forward Justina Babcock said.
Babylon’s Shayne Antolini, who scored the lone goal in the 37th minute at Southold High School, said the Clippers gave them all they could handle.
“They played great,” she said. “They pushed us really hard. They pushed us to our limits. We had to keep going. We got only one goal against them. They’re a good team.”
Babylon (8-2-1, 8-1-0) proved to be the better team as the Panthers needed to rebound from a frustrating 2-1 home loss to The Stony Brook School Saturday.
The visitors were not at full strength as standout midfielder Shelby Fredericks, who entered the game tied for third in the county with 16 goals, was hobbled by an ankle injury. She came on as a substitute midway through the first half.
Fredericks did not play to her potential, but even her misses were spectacular as her bicycle kick went right to goalkeeper Masha Winkler with 10:32 remaining in the first half and fired a point-blank opportunity over the crossbar six minutes into the second half.
“Our intentions was to play her limited minutes, see how she felt,” Babylon coach Tim Harrison said. “But because she controlled the way she played, she played very simple. She tried to make some early decisions, keep the ball off her feet, keep her ankle secure.”
Fredericks didn’t score, but Antolini did, beating her marker by sending a 12-yard shot from the right side past Winkler with 2:54 remaining in the first half.
The Babylon defense held fast, blocking many of the Clippers’ attempts, keeping the ball away from goalkeeper Kristen Altieri.
“They did a nice job of switching the field and playing through the middle and back out to the other side,” Harrison said. “That was to their advantage. We saw some dangerous counterattacks, but defensively we covered well.”
The Panthers have allowed only six goals in 11 games this season.
“Our defense is the building block of our team,” Antolini said. “They’re the best part of our team. They pick everyone up.”
The same could be said of Winkler, who did her job of keeping the Clippers in the game. Winkler, a sophomore, was credited with 13 saves.
“She plays great every game,” Babcock said. “Looking at her from her first game ever on varsity and then to now, it’s just a major, major improvement. I’m proud of her of how she has come along.”