Defensive focus fuels Valley Stream


A contactless sport may not leave much room for aggression but don’t tell that to the Valley Stream District flag football team.

After dropping a low-scoring affair to Port Washington, Valley Stream (7-3) exercised its demons by earning its fifth shutout victory of the season on the road to the tune of 30-0 at Westbury April 20.

“The goal for us on defense is we want to shut the opponent out,” Valley Stream head coach Brian Kelly said. “We don't want them to score. We always live by if the offense can't score against us, we can't lose the game. That's our mentality. If we don't give up points, we won't lose.”

In theory, it’s a simple concept but is much more difficult to execute in practice, especially in a version of football that is much more advantageous to the offense. Nevertheless, the pass-rush duo of Sara Sierzega and Anaya Hunte have become game wreckers for Valley Stream and nightmares for opponents.

“The rush is so quick, it's hard for the other teams to even run a play,” said Kelly.

Valley Stream’s defense has taken the responsibility of scoring upon itself as well. All-County linebacker Jazleen Narvaez has picked off five passes, returning two for touchdowns.

The competency Valley Stream has displayed on defense this season makes it somewhat hard to believe this is only the second year of the program’s existence. Just a year ago, Kelly was pinning up flyers to recruit players from all three high schools in the Valley Stream District.

“Starting from scratch, which was really stressful, but making it our own and just seeing exactly where we could take this has been tremendous,” Kelly said.“[The team] is awesome. They are great kids and amazing athletes. That combination makes doing this a joy.”

Senior quarterback Alyssa Santiago is one of the forebearers of the program and drives the offense with a combined 20 touchdowns on the ground and through the air.

“She is the ultimate competitor, but aside from the athletic ability and the stats that she puts up, she is the single most important leader on this team,” Kelly said. “She just gets everybody to buy in, and she is probably one of the reasons why we are so successful.”

Santiago has hit six different receivers to put points on the board for Valley Stream, including Lauren Alvarez, Gabriella Rivera, Kelly Garay and Ryann Blount. However, no connection has been stronger for Santiago than the one she has with leading receiver Joeyce Forero.

As an eighth-grader, Forero has eight touchdowns. Next year, she’ll take up Santiago’s mantle under center and continue to help build an already strong culture in Valley Stream.

“It really comes from the girls themselves,” Kelly said. “They understand that this is a big deal. They understand that this is a district team. Valley Stream is a close community. They build the culture themselves. We try to facilitate it, but the girls themselves are the ones who build this culture and make it so successful.”