The graduation this past spring of four-time All-State goalkeeper Lydia Kessel left the Shoreham-Wading River girls soccer team with really only one question mark entering this season. Well, that question mark has quickly become an exclamation mark.
Not only has the producer of that exclamation mark, Alison Devall, posted two shutouts and conceded only one goal in the team’s first three games, but she has played impressively. The junior’s performance has been reassuring to her teammates and coaches.
Although Devall had played for the same East Meadow club team as Kessel, Devall spent the last two falls playing varsity volleyball for SWR. But SWR’s defending Suffolk County Class A champion soccer team had one starting position to fill from last year’s squad, and that was in goal.
One day last year coach Adrian Gilmore had a fortuitous meeting in a hallway with Devall and told her she would love to have her on the team. Not long after, it was a done deal.
“Well, they needed a goalie, and in volleyball, actually, I kept getting hurt,” Devall said. “I was in a cast like all last season, so it was time to switch.”
The Wildcats got a preview of what to expect from Devall during the Town of Brookhaven Summer League. Devall was the MVP of the championship game.
“I was really impressed, not only with her skills as a keeper, but just with her ability to lead on the field,” Gilmore said. “I’ve always known she was a good goalkeeper. I’ve known her since she was in fifth grade. I was just kind of waiting to see how good she was. I’ve been pleasantly surprised each game.”
Senior striker Nicky Constant said, “I knew that she would make a big impact.”
Devall did just that Wednesday in a 2-0 blanking of visiting West Babylon. Early in the game, she made a sprawling point-blank block of a shot by Erin Thompson on the rain-soaked field turf to keep the Division II game scoreless.
Assistant coach Brian Ferguson “and I kind of looked at each other and fist pumped in the air on that save,” Gilmore said. “It was clutch. You know, it changes the game.”
Devall said: “That’s like my favorite kind of save. You just take advantage of their touch and then you just get low.”
Other than that, Devall didn’t have too much to do, other than doing what she was supposed to do — continually communicating with her young defenders, collecting loose balls and clearing them in her confident manner.
“I love Ali back there,” sophomore left back Lydia Radonavitch said. “It’s a big weight off your shoulders, knowing you have a good goalie behind you.”
Nicky Constant and Emma Kirkpatrick supplied the goals for SWR (2-0-1, 2-0-1). Following a pass from Sara Hobbes, Constant drilled a left-footed shot that beat goalkeeper Alyssa Apuzzo to the inside of the far right post 18 minutes and 24 seconds into the match. Kirkpatrick doubled the score with her second goal of the season. A long-range shot by Gianna Cacciola was stopped by Apuzzo, but Kirkpatrick pounded the rebound in 7:32 into the second half.
The game ended, perhaps fittingly, with the ball in Devall’s arms after she caught a long, speculative shot.
It was a good showing by SWR’s young defense, with sophomore sweeper Brooke Langella, Radonavitch, junior right back Hobbes and sophomore stopper Maddy Joannou.
“It’s one of the best defenses we’ve had,” said Constant, who has three goals and two assists through three games. “I mean, everyone is so confident in them. We are a young defense with juniors and sophomores but they really do step it up when the time comes and they know what to do at the right time.”
One would think following in the footsteps of a player of Kessel’s caliber would be daunting, but Devall has made it look smooth.
Devall, who is backed up by junior Abby Wing, said the defense in front of her has helped. “The defense is great,” she said. “Everyone communicates. It’s really positive.”
As has been the emergence of Devall. That big question mark may now be erased.
Said Gilmore, “I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River’s new goalkeeper, Alison Devall, has posted two shutouts and conceded only one goal in the team’s first three games. (Credit: Bob Liepa)