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Girls Soccer Preview: SWR may have gotten even stronger

Warning to Suffolk County Class A girls soccer teams: If you think Shoreham-Wading River was good last year, wait until you meet this year’s team.

The county champions lost only two players — all-everything goalkeeper Lydia Kessel to graduation and defender Elizabeth Shields, who decided to play for a U.S. Soccer Development Academy team rather than high school soccer.

“We’re a year older, strong and smarter,” head coach Adrian Gilmore said.

The Wildcats (18-1-1) reached the Long Island final last year, losing on an own goal to North Shore, 1-0.

So, Shoreham’s goals are high.

“We should make the playoffs,” Gilmore said. “I see them as a team that can go a long way as long as the team stays healthy.

“I feel It’s a strong enough team to get back there.”

There are plenty of reasons why Gilmore is so optimistic.

Start with senior tri-captains Nicky Constant, who was second among Long Island goal scorers (29 goals plus 14 assists) and Emma Kirkpatrick (nine goals, six assists) up front.

“They’re both dynamic players,” Gilmore said. “Emma is the type of player who will do anything to get a goal. Nicky is more of a finesse player.”

Continue with four returning starters in the midfield with tri-captain and senior Frankie Lilly (nine goals, nine assists) and Ashley Borriello on the flanks and juniors Lakin Ciampo and Gianna Cacciola in the middle.

And finish with an imposing backline in center backs Madison Joannou, a junior, and sophomore Brooke Langella, who will replace Shields, and fullbacks Sara Hobbs, a junior, and Lydia Radonavitch, a sophomore.

“We got those girls for another year,” Gilmore said. “It’s a nice problem to have.”

Well, not for opponents.

Gilmore hasn’t made a decision on who will replace Kessel in goal as junior Alison DeVall and sophomore Abigail Wing are battling it out. DeVall, who has returned to soccer after a stint with the varsity volleyball team, played in the Brookhaven Summer League. “She was great,” Gilmore said, adding that Devall made two vital penalty kick saves against William Floyd to win the summer league crown. “No matter who wins [the job], I’m comfortable with that spot,” Gilmore said.

There will be a different dynamic to Suffolk girls soccer this fall. Instead of leagues, teams have been divided into two divisions — large schools (Class AA) and small schools (Classes A, B, C and D). The teams will be ranked similar to the way football, field hockey and lacrosse are with power rankings as teams accrue points for wins and draws. “This way, you’re going to play the best competition,” Gilmore said.

Then again, if Shoreham plays up to its potential, every time the Wildcats step onto the field their opponents probably will be saying that.

Riverhead’s goals are simple: improve on its 1-13 record of a year ago, be competitive and make a serious playoff run in 2019.

It’s not that first-year head coach Samba Traore is a pessimist. He is a realist as to where the Blue Waves are at this juncture.

“I am looking forward,” said Traore, an assistant coach the last few years who replaced Brian Cunningham as the head man. “I just want to have some wins. We keep improving. I’m looking forward to making the playoffs with this generation.

“To make the playoffs [this year], it’s going to be kind of hard, but I’m not giving up. Next year we can start making the playoffs.”

Traore, whose brother Lamine coached the Blue Waves’ boys team for several years, has been buoyed by the fact the team’s defense is solid. Junior Megan McIntosh, who enjoyed an outstanding year in 2017, will be paired at center back with freshman Marina Ronzoni. Sophomore Rebecca Cohen is another returning backline player.

“We have a better defense than the past four years that we struggled with,” Traore said. “We have a stronger defense this year.”

Junior forward Krista Romer will be the spear of the attack and senior defensive midfielder Isabella Carson leads a midfield that has been bolstered by sophomore Avery Elis, who played varsity volleyball last year.

“We have a couple of players who can make some noise,” Traore said.

Elis, who has played travel soccer, could make an impact. “She’s a box-to-box player,” Traore said. “Ever since the tryouts started, she has been fantastic.”

Traore will be quite happy as long as the Blue Waves keep improving.

He said, “Even if we don’t make the playoffs, it’s positive that we can keep moving forward and building toward the playoffs.”

Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River’s Nicky Constant was second among Long Island goal scorers last year with 29 goals and 14 assists. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk, file)