Last year, the Rye Neck Girls’ soccer team had three strengths that stood out in every game they played:
By Mitch Silver
Last year, the Rye Neck Girls’ soccer team had three strengths that stood out in every game they played: a terrific goal scorer in Lauren Vallerelli, All-League goalkeeper Sabrina Albanese, and a Refuse-to-Lose spirit that took them to a first-ever 3-0 win for Coach Sue Hannon over longtime nemesis Blind Brook. Dogged play by the 13th-seeded Panthers nearly pulled off a playoff stunner against longtime soccer power Albertus Magnus.
This year? Vallerelli graduated and Albanese broke her nose — she’ll miss the early part of schedule. But that fighting spirit remains, and Coach Susan and her new assistant Stephanie Sumcizk are counting on it to pull their team through. “We’re going to attack with speed from the back. With Lauren gone to graduation, I’m hoping we get scoring from a lot of different places on the field,” the head coach said.
One player who won’t be in on the scoring is SUNY Cortland-bound co-captain Cassie Sterbens, who tore her ACL over the summer. “We’ll really miss her,” Hannon said. “We’ll need the younger girls to step up and take over in the middle of the field. Fortunately, this will be the third varsity year for half a dozen girls, and that experienced leadership will count for a lot.”
The coach is hoping underclassman Sophia Wice brings her “speed and strength” to the varsity. “With Kayla Casa and Maggie O’Malley, she can give us a real advantage.”
Senior Julia Kelly was in goal in place of Albanese when the team outscored Tuckahoe 3-0 in a scrimmage at the end of August. The Panthers controlled play as Wice scored twice and O’Malley chipped in another. Lanie Jones did yeoman work in midfield, and co-captains Annie Masciopinto and Allison Ball were strong in back. Of the fourth co-captain, Kayla Casas, Coach Hannon said, “She did her usual job of creating havoc up front.”
After another scrimmage 24 hours later against a much tougher Rye High team — the Garnets controlled most of the possession — Rye Neck opened the season against non-league Croton-Harmon. While Casas scored on a pass from O’Malley and Jones buried two penalty kicks, the Tigers poured in six on their home field.
“They were fast and continuously beat our back line, so we shifted at halftime from a flat back four to a sweeper back,” the coach said. “We enjoyed much better ball movement in the second half. But they just finished better.”
Sabrina Kates returned to the lineup from an injury and gave the defense a boost, and Kelly had 11 saves. The coach praised Masciopinto. “As the last defender, she helped prevent further damage with her hustle, smarts, and communication.”
The team visited non-league foes Pleasantville and Edgemont post-press time. They’ll host Briarcliff September 16, at 4:30 p.m.