Sue Hannon knows her Rye Neck soccer players inside and out. Inside the school, Hannon is a guidance counselor with 14 years of experience.
By Mitch Silver
Sue Hannon knows her Rye Neck soccer players inside and out. Inside the school, Hannon is a guidance counselor with 14 years of experience. Outside, she’s been the varsity head coach for the last three seasons. “So, yes,” she smiled, “I know these players pretty well.”
It’s why, when the contest was scoreless at the half against long-time nemesis Blind Brook September 23, Coach Hannon left her charges alone. “No rousing speeches, no big changes — just a tweak on our dead-ball positioning. Mainly I just let them talk among themselves. They’re smart, they know what to improve on.”
And improve they did. What had been the world’s most evenly played soccer game turned into a Panther fireworks display. The fuse was lit eight minutes after halftime when junior Kayla Casas put one in the back of the net. Less than six minutes later senior co-Captain Lauren Vallarelli detonated the first of her two scores, finishing off the Trojans.
Coach Hannon gave it a big fist pump and a heartfelt “Yessssss!!!” at the final whistle. “The Trojans have tortured us since I’ve been the coach. This is our first win over them in three years, and we played our best half of the season to make it happen.”
Despite losing six players to graduation from her 2013 league co-champs, Hannon and fellow coach Carey Hickey are reasonably optimistic their girls can keep up the good work. “We return most of the nucleus of last year’s squad, including our All-League goalkeeper, Sabrina Albanese,” the coach said.
Albanese had seven saves for the game and kept up a constant stream of chatter, positioning her defenders and calling for the ball. “She’s smart, as is our other keeper, Kayla Pugliese, who played today in the midfield. It’s a nice luxury to have.”
The season got off to a rocky start September 6, when, one minute into the game against Edgemont, their senior speedster, Gabi Casado-Cocero, sprang free for a goal, the first of four she tallied in the 5-2 contest. Still, Coach Hannon looked on the bright side.
“Our passing, communication, and teamwork were strong, so I was happy with our efforts. Vallarelli had two great finishes for both goals off two brilliant passes from Cassie Sterbens. Kayla Casas used her versatility and passing ability to play both forward and midfield.”
Two days later, Vallarelli was at it again, scoring three goals against Keio. Casas added two more and an assist in Rye Neck’s 6-0 home win. O’Malley and Sterbens each had two assists in the convincing victory.
Her two goals on six shots Tuesday makes Vallarelli one of the league’s top strikers. With power up front and strength (and smarts) in back, the 2014 Panthers look set to contend for the title and move deep into the playoffs.