Aaliyah Shorter’s emergence as a soccer goalkeeper may have been as much a product of chance and being in the right place at the right time as anything else.
Entering the 2019 season, Shorter had considered herself to be a “fake goalie,” someone who stepped in between the goalposts during practices.
Well, those days are long gone. An injury to Mattituck/Southold/Greenport’s No. 1 goalkeeper at the time created a need for a replacement. Shorter was given the chance and soon made the position her own. On Friday, the junior served a reminder that she is a genuine goalkeeper with genuine talent.
Even in defeat, the player in the bright orange goalkeeper’s jersey shined. A 2-0 Suffolk County League VIII loss to Southampton at Mattituck High School might have been much worse for the Tuckers if not for Shorter.
“Without Aaliyah, we get blown out,” said junior center midfielder Adrine Demirciyan.
Shorter was one of the busiest players on the field, dealing with shots, crosses and loose balls, not to mention pressure.
Does she like being that busy in goal?
“Yes, I like being active to a point, but really, if I’m not active, that’s the best thing I can hope for,” she said. “That means that my team is doing everything right.”
Southampton (3-0, 3-0) and its skillful forward, Carli Cameron, seemed to be an almost continual threat to the Mattituck goal. Shorter already had seven saves by halftime, including one from a Cameron shot she stuffed late in the first half. Some of Shorter’s best work came in the second half when she stopped a close-range blast by Emily Zukosky and pushed aside an attempt by Ellie Avallone for a corner kick.
“Aaliyah is a great goalie, a hundred percent,” Demirciyan said, “and she communicates well and she sees the whole field, so she’s able to tell everybody where to be, who to mark up.”
Cameron was not to be denied, however. The junior struck for both goals within 2 minutes, 5 seconds of each other. First Cameron flicked a well-placed cross from Juliette Archer with her head inside the far right post 17:29 into the second half. A turnover led to the second goal. Avallone picked off an ill-advised pass deep in Mattituck’s end and fed Cameron, who drilled the ball into the net.
MSG (1-2, 1-2) was outshot, 16-6, but did have two particularly noteworthy first-half scoring chances by Christine Kneuer. Kneuer, latching onto a ball from Mackenzie Conroy, clipped a shot just wide of the left post. Later, Kneuer was in front of goal when goalkeeper Kendra Jimenez blocked her shot.
Shorter, playing behind defenders Ainsley Brewer, Sidney Brewer, Sheyla Garcia, Jennifer Serrano Campos and Jenna Sledjeski at various times, finished with 12 saves. She has played every minute of MSG’s first three games, but the fact that the Tuckers allowed seven goals in those games may be more a reflection of the team’s inexperience than anything else.
Because of the pandemic, the fall season was postponed from last fall to this March and April. Prior to this season, MSG’s last game was Nov. 2, 2019, when the Tuckers were beaten, 4-1, by Babylon in the Suffolk Class B final.
Unlike that MSG team, which was loaded with experience, this season’s squad has plenty of new faces and inexperience. The 19-player roster features only four seniors — Ainsley Brewer, Grace Brodarick, Myah Orlowski and Abby Seifert. The rest are divided between nine juniors and six sophomores. A condensed preseason hasn’t made things any easier for the team or new coach Rafael Morais, who coached Mattituck in 2016, when the team went 8-6 and reached the county semifinals.
“Definitely a lot of changes, but that is just something we’re going to have to adjust to,” said Demirciyan.
This is only the third season in the brief history of MSG, which represents all three North Fork high schools.
One thing MSG can count on is Shorter.
No, there’s nothing fake about this keeper. She’s the real thing.