Emily Sopko’s role on the soccer field is to help prevent goals. On defense for Shoreham-Wading River, she and her teammates accomplish that goal to near perfection.
At 14-0-1, the Wildcats are in the midst of one their finest seasons in program history. A win in their regular season finale Wednesday would lock up an undefeated regular season heading into the playoffs.
Perhaps most remarkable has been the number of goals Shoreham has allowed: two.
On Monday, the Wildcats notched their 13th shutout with a 7-0 win over Southampton on Senior Night at Shoreham-Wading River High School. As the second half began, Sopko — one of six seniors on the team — found herself in unusual territory.
Shoreham coach Adrian Gilmore positioned Sopko at striker, hoping for the senior to score a goal in the final home game of the regular season. By the end of the first half, three of the seniors already had goals. So the mission became Operation Sopko.
On nearly every play in the Southampton end, Shoreham players called out for Sopko, trying to set their teammate for a scoring chance. As she found out, scoring goals isn’t always as easy as it looks.
“I’m not used to it,” Sopko said.
She had her chances, including one golden opportunity inside the box that was thwarted with a diving save from Southampton’s goalkeeper late in the game.
Sopko was all smiles during the second half as he fought through the extra exertion that came with being in on nearly every offensive play.
In the end, all five of her senior teammates finished with a goal. Emily Blunnie and Courtney Clasen each scored a goal in the second half. Clasen boomed a shot from deep outside the box that soared into the top of the goal for Shoreham’s seventh goal.
Blunnie had a pair of assists to go with her goal.
“I think it just kind of happened,” Sopko said of the seniors scoring.
The Wildcats scored with ease with three quick goals in the first few minutes of the game. That related much of the half to the players simply playing a passing game to limit the attack. Senior Taylor Chaimowitz scored a pair of goals in the first half. Seniors Theresa Bender, Mackenzie Roberts and junior Megan Kelly all added goals in the first half.
Not every game has been so easy this season. But even against the tougher opponents, the Wildcats have still been rock solid on defense.
“I think we communicate very well on the field and we have a very strong defense in the back,” Sopko said. “I trust all of them.”
Of the two goals Shoreham has given up this season, Gilmore took the blame for one. She said against Mount Sinai early in the season, she had mixed up the lineup, moving players around, and the Mustangs squeaked out a lucky goal.
John Glenn scored the only other goal against Shoreham Sept. 27. Since then, it’s been eight straight games without giving up a goal. The Wildcats tied John Glenn in their most recent matchup Saturday, 0-0, a game Gilmore said the Wildcats had plenty of chances to score.
It was the only tie so far this season for Shoreham, which has the League VI title locked up now with a 12-0-1 record. Last year Shoreham tied Bayport-Blue Point for a share of the league title.
The road to the county championship likely runs through Sayville once again. The Golden Flashes, a familiar nemesis for Shoreham, is 12-0-3 and atop the more competitive League V. Sayville ended Shoreham’s season a year ago in the semifinals, 1-0.
As the League VI champs, the Wildcats can hope for a No. 2 seed in the playoffs. Assuming the Golden Flashes, winners of two of the past four Class A county titles, receive the No. 1 seed, the Wildcats can hope to avoid them until the county finals.
But even as the co-league champion last year, the Wildcats were still only a No. 4 seed. The playoffs are slated to begin Oct. 28.
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