Long Beach girls’ soccer coach Michael Santoro says each season the Marines set a goal to surpass the success of the previous year’s team, which in this case won’t be easy considering the 2019 squad went 9-2-2 and reached the second round of the Nassau Class A playoffs.
“They want to go as far as they can in the playoffs and at least one step better than last season,” Santoro said after the Marines won their seventh straight out of the gate, defeating Glen Cove on March 31 (Senior Day) 7-0. “We graduated only two starters and put in a lot of offseason work, so expectations are high,” he added.
Playing in the spring has brought additional challenges, Santoro noted, but Long Beach continues to perform at a high level. “Usually in September I’m telling the girls it’ll be 90 degrees on the turf and to stay hydrated,” he said. “Now we’re dealing with some weather we’re not used to.”
While temperatures remain on the cold side, the Marines are firing on all cylinders. They’ve outscored the competition by a margin of 32-4 and sit atop the Conference A-IV standings. “We’ve been wearing teams down with our depth,” Santoro said.
Senior forward Emily Aitchison is the go-to player up top and has a team-leading 15 points (7 goals, 8 assists) through seven games. She’s a four-year varsity starter and third-year captain. “Emily’s an all-around playmaker and when teams focus on her, she takes advantage of it because she’s so unselfish,” Santoro said. “She has a great first touch and incredible field awareness.” Speedy sophomore Rylee Roberts (3 goals, 2 assists) is the other starting forward and has developed a high level of chemistry with Aitchison.
In the midfield, sophomore Samantha Kolb and junior Samantha Addeo have been nothing short of dominant in the center. Kolb’s 10 goals lead the conference. Santoro said she’s “probably the best player I’ve ever coached.” Kolb had four goals in the opener. Addeo has 3 goals and 3 assists. “They’ve been fun to watch,” Santoro said. “They cause a lot of havoc.” Senior Shirley Hernandez and junior Sophia Roa are fast and tenacious outside middies who spark the transition game and get the ball into the corners.
Defensively, Long Beach is loaded with experience and talent. Seniors Skylar Cantrambone, Gia Simbari and Valentina Escobar, along with junior Natalia Hakimzadeh, all returned. The unit has been bolstered by freshman Jocelyn Bravo, who has quickly shown the ability to be a shutdown defender.
Santoro said junior goalkeeper Alex Hastings is the team’s biggest surprise. She has 51 saves and 4 shutouts. “I didn’t know much about her except she was the JV goalie and they had a great season,” he said. “She’s so athletic and has excellent hand-eye coordination from playing softball.”
The toughest obstacles for the Marines in their quest for the conference title appear to be Great Neck North and Great Neck South. They have two games with North remaining and edged South, 2-1, on goals by Aitchison and Hakimzadeh.