Glen Cove in contention for top spot


Glen Cove girls’ lacrosse coach Mark Checola credits captains Jennifer LaRocca and Ashley Brown with keeping the team united during the pandemic and serving as leaders of the defense and offense, respectively, once the action got going May 1.

The Big Red was leading the pack in Nassau Conference V through 10 games with a record of 8-1-1. Checola, who has spent 24 years coaching boys’ or girls’ lacrosse in the district, says the compete level is the team’s biggest asset.

“The girls have been fantastic,” said Checola, who served as the girls’ varsity assistant from 2017-2019. “The pandemic was a major challenge, but Jennifer and Ashley were instrumental in keeping everyone on the same page. The kids have all bought in and are playing very well.”

For various reasons, Glen Cove was forced into using three different goaltenders over the first four games. It still managed to start 3-1 and took a nailbiter over Valley Stream District, 7-6, when starting goalie Lily Knobel returned and made seven saves. Junior Sofia Kern and sophomore Caralena Genova held down the fort in the interim.

“There aren’t too many positions in all of sports harder than a goalie in lacrosse,” Checola said. “Lily is a hard worker and a strong athlete. She’s played lights-out for us. She has a super high compete level and fights for everything. She’s not going to give up soft goals. It was great to see Sofia and Caralena step up when Lily was unavailable.”

Knobel’s most impressive game of the season so far came in the rematch against Valley Stream District on May 20 when she made 21 saves in a 10-10 tie. Brown, a junior, scored six goals and ranked among the county leaders with 48 heading into June.

“Ashley is fast with good vision and a strong left-handed stick,” Checola said of Brown, who scored seven goals to lead a 13-5 win over Great Neck North on May 24. “I think where she’s underrated is her ability to make things happen from the right side as well.”

Freshman midfielder Maddy Kaffl (28 goals, 10 assists) is the team’s second-leading scorer who was quick to develop chemistry with Brown. Kaffl also takes the lion’s share of draws. “I don’t sub Maddy off unless she says she needs a breather,” Checola said. Senior Caroline Yee is another important piece in the midfield. In addition to being an emergency goalie, Kern contributes at midfield and attack along with junior Grace Spoto, who has 13 goals.

In the defensive zone, LaRocca, a senior, is a positive influence on the unit and brings plenty of energy, Checola noted. “She’s like having a coach on the field,” he said. Junior Tigist Wilson and freshman Ava Scagliola, a groundball machine, are additional keys to the success on defense. Glen Cove held opponents to single digits in goals in seven of the first 10 games.