By Owen O'Brien
The Valley Stream South girls soccer team won’t be sneaking up on anybody this year. Just don’t tell that to the players.
The Falcons became the lowest seed to win a county title in Nassau girls athletics history last season. They entered the postseason as the No. 18 seed and went on to win the Nassau AB-V championship.
But Valley Stream South wasn’t done there. The Falcons won their first state championship in program history, taking the Class A crown with a 1-0 win over Jamesville-DeWitt in the state final.
Fast forward to this fall. After the parades and celebrations faded away and club seasons turned into varsity workouts, were the Falcons basking in what they achieved last season? Not exactly.
“Camp this year is 10 times harder than last year,” said Bryana Pizarro, who tied for the Long Island lead with 44 points on 30 goals and 14 assists as a junior last year. “Mostly because now that we are at the top, we have to try to stay at the top. Last year is last year. That’s history. And this year is the present and we’re trying to do what we did again.”
After its 21-0 state championship season, Valley Stream South will be playing in the top conference in Nassau AB this fall. The chance to play top competition is what the Falcons fought for, but they still feel they need to prove they belong there.
“We wanted to be here so badly so just playing every game is kind of like playing a playoff game all over again,” Pizzaro said. “We have so much to prove, and we just want to fight and keep fighting for what we think we deserve.”
“Last year was not that long ago and there’s still a chip on their shoulder,” coach Demetri Adrahtas said. “I understand we are the hunted, but at the same time, we are being hunted by teams that thought we were a Conference V team last year and thought that we were an 18 seed going into the playoffs.”
Valley Stream South graduated a talented senior class, including defender Lindsey Smith, who was Newsday’s Nassau Player of the Year, but return key players in Mia Asenjo, Kayla Camacho, Lexxi McNeil, Hailey Roberts and Pizzaro off a team that outscored opponents, 92-7.
“I think being the underdog last year was definitely a motivation,” said Asenjo, who had 22 goals and 17 assists. “But to be honest, we’re still kind of the underdogs here. We’ve only won one state championship and we’re here to win more. ”
Nassau AB-I will be highly competitive with Calhoun, Garden City, Manhasset, Mepham, South Side and Wantagh rounding out the conference. MacArthur, which reached the county final last year, spearheads Nassau AB-II.
And just like Valley Stream South, MacArthur won’t be taken lightly this time around.
“I think deep down, we all thought we had the run in us but the way the season happened, we thought we weren’t going to make it that far,” said Kara DeBlaiso, who had 25 goals for MacArthur last year. “It definitely wasn’t that much of a surprise, but it also was at the same time.”
Nassau ‘AA’ competitiveness
The Massapequa girls soccer team has been a powerhouse of Nassau large school soccer, winning 14 county titles over the past 16 years. The Chiefs were the No. 1 seed entering the playoffs last season but suffered a disappointing quarterfinals loss to No. 8 Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK.
Seniors Emma Cooney, Jackie Portogallo, Kayla Mushorn and Sierra Brophy have the Chiefs looking to return to its championship ways.
“Last year we ended a little earlier than we expected,” Cooney said. “So this year, we’re just trying to come out stronger than we were, play hard every game and act like every game’s a final.”
Syosset and East Meadow were deemed ‘co-champions’ last season after their Nassau AA final went into penalty kicks. It was the first title in school history for Syosset and the first since 1990 for East Meadow.
Syosset topped East Meadow in penalty kicks to advance to the Long Island Class AA championship, and returns a strong core looking to do the same.
“My freshman year, we were not that good,” said Syosset junior midfielder Avani Brandt. “We were almost dropped from our conference completely. But we turned it completely around and we can definitely prove everyone wrong once again because people still have doubts.”
Syosset also features dynamic sophomore twins in Bella and Emma Romano, along with seniors Hope Neale and Kendall Halpern.
East Meadow returns three of its top players in Stephanie Sparkowski, Myla McLeod and Scarlett Espinosa.
Sparkowski, a goalkeeper committed to the University of Michigan who was one of 40 girls selected to play in the Allstate All-American Cup in Orlando this summer, is set on keeping the Jets in the championship picture her senior year.
“I know a bunch of the girls on other teams and I think there’s going to be a bunch of really good games,” she said. “A lot of games coming down to the last minute, so it’s going to be fun.”
By Owen O'Brien