Long Beach might be the smallest school among the 14 in Nassau Class AA girls’ soccer, but the Lady Marines are embracing the underdog role and have big expectations a year after capturing the Conference AA-3 title in undefeated fashion.
“We have a strong core returning and the girls are confident they’re going to turn some heads,” coach Michael Santoro said. “They love being an underdog team and they want to be challenged.”
With the departure of perennial county contender Calhoun and a few others to Class A due to enrollment, the number of Class AA programs remaining led Section VIII Athletics to create two 7-team conferences. “We’ve bounced around conferences in recent years so I like the new setup,” Santoro explained. “We’re looking forward to the busy schedule.”
Long Beach will vie for AA-2 supremacy with Plainview, Oceanside, Freeport, Uniondale, Westbury and Hempstead. Only the conference champion will advance to the playoffs. “We got a taste of the playoffs last year and the girls are hungry for more,” Santoro said. “Only one team from our conference will get in, but that’s our goal.”
The Lady Marines will be defensive-minded, Santoro said, led by All-Conference center-backs Victoria Posada, a senior, and Skyler Catrambone, a sophomore. “Victoria is our bulldog back there and wins every 50-50 ball, and Skyler is highly skilled,” he said.
Senior Fiona Rafferty is a returning starter at fullback and a captain. “She’s a great athlete and in the best shape of her life,” Santoro noted. Seniors Hannah Lewis and Jessica Thursland will also see plenty of time at fullback and could also slide to midfield at times.
In goal, junior Sage Bernstein enters her third year as the varsity starter. She was voted team MVP last fall and added the title of captain. “She was our rock last year and kept us in games,” Santoro said. “She’ll run through a post to make a save and is a great communicator.”
Though last year’s leading scorer, All-State honoree and Conference Player of the Year Grace Conway (10 goals, 8 assists) graduated, the offensive cupboard is far from bare. Santoro is counting on returning starting center-midfielders Cate Conway (junior) and Emily Aitchison (sophomore) to pick up where they left off last season when both had five goals and combined for eight assists. “They’re our two highest-skilled players and their chemistry is unbelievable,” Santoro said. “Their creativity and vision are unmatched.”
Of the likely starting outside middies and forwards, only senior Megan Korotz, who brings speed and the ability to find the net, has experience at the varsity level. Sophomore Valentina Escobar and freshman Samantha Addeo played outside midfield for the JV squad and eye similar roles, while junior Maggie Reznick was a JV forward. Freshman speedster Natalia Hakimzadeh can provide a spark.