ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River’s Kerri Clark was involved in the give-and-go that led to Emily Sopko’s goal.
The Shoreham-Wading River High School girls soccer coach, Adrian Gilmore, enjoyed a rare luxury in her team’s game against Miller Place on Tuesday night. She was able to deploy a full starting 11 in the Town of Brookhaven Summer League playoff match at Diamond in the Pines in Coram.
Despite the opposition having three substitutes and the Wildcats none, Shoreham managed to secure a 1-0 victory, handing Miller Place (8-1-1) its first defeat of the summer and move into the quarterfinals.
For their previous game, a 2-0 victory over Port Jefferson, the Wildcats used only eight players.
“We always have no subs or play down a player,” midfielder Courtney Clasen said. “We play through it.”
The Wildcats (5-5) will play Sayville (9-1) at The Wedge in Mount Sinai on Thursday evening. Sayville, which recorded a 1-0 playoff win over Port Jefferson on Tuesday, defeated Shoreham during the regular season, 1-0.
“It’s going to be a tough game,” said Emily Sopko, who scored the lone goal in the win over Miller Place.
Gilmore agreed, saying Sayville was “a tough competitor. I didn’t have my goalie and we lost on a penalty kick. We’ll see what Thursday brings. I’m excited.”
“Again, I don’t remember having that many subs standing next to us,” Gilmore said, laughing.
ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Theresa Bender of Shoreham-Wading River making a pass during her team’s 1-0 playoff win over Miller Place.
That has been a theme this summer for the Wildcats. Since the Brookhaven League does not demand mandatory attendance and players go on vacation and have summer jobs and other commitments, it’s not unusual for teams to field shorthanded teams.
Shoreham had to forfeit one game at Sachem because only six girls showed up.
“We had to drive all the way to Sachem,” goalkeeper Kelly Wynkoop said. “It was pouring rain. There was only six of us huddled under an umbrella. It’s always we don’t have enough girls. We have the talent, it’s just people have other things going on and they can’t show up.”
When Tuesday’s game kicked off, Shoreham had all of its players in the starting lineup. Miller Place had three players on the bench and its coach substituted freely.
Because there were no substitutes available, every Shoreham player knew she would have to go the full 60 minutes in the game of two 30-minute halves. In fact, the Wildcats were forced to go down to 10 players early in the second half when Taylor Chaimowitz was taken out for six minutes after sustaining an ankle injury.
“I just play until I know it’s over,” said Clasen, a three-sport star who also competes in basketball and track. “I don’t really think about it. I just play. If I’m dying, I just think, ‘Well if we win this we go on.’ ”
Added Sopko: “We just think about winning the game and moving forward in the season. We think about the season coming up. We just hope that we’re this good.”
Shoreham was missing three starters who were on vacation — sweeper Kate Birkmire, striker Megan Kelly, who has been tied as the league’s leading goal scorer, and incoming freshman Alexandra Kuhnie.
But the Wildcats came through. Wynkoop grabbed everything that was shot or sent her way. Clasen set the pace in the midfield and Sopko tallied midway through the opening half.
“They do a great job of possessing the ball, playing to feet and I think a difference tonight, just playing smart,” Gilmore said.
Sopko broke the deadlock with 14 minutes 9 seconds remaining in the first half as she scored inside the penalty area on a give-and-go with Kerri Clark.
Sopko admitted she did not remember much about her goal. “When I shoot and score, I don’t really think about it,” she said. “I just worry about getting the ball into the back of the net.”
Last season the Wildcats struggled at times, dropping several games by a goal. But given a promising talent pool and the encouraging summer results, Gilmore was optimistic for the fall as she walked off the artificial turf field on a beautiful summer night.
“It’s a good indicator of how they look for the fall and our JV team is in first place for summer league also, so that just speaks for the talent that’s coming up throughout the program,” she said.