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Girls Soccer Preview: SWR’s shooting high in 2019

Adrian Gilmore has some lofty goals for the Shoreham-Wading River girls soccer team.

Not only does that include winning the Suffolk County Class A title, but the Long Island one as well. That LI championship has been an elusive target for the Wildcats, who have never won one.

“That’s always high on my radar, to get that Long Island championship,” Gilmore said. “I would love to see myself there and hopefully go upstate and represent Suffolk County and Long Island at the state championships.”

Given the impressive roster SWR has returning this season, that certainly is not out of the question. Plus, the Wildcats are coming off an impressive title run in the Town of Brookhaven Summer Soccer League.

So, where do you begin with the Wildcats?

Let’s start with the defense — the goalkeeper, Alison Devall, and the back line, where everyone returns from a team that was stingy giving up goals last year. Devall saved two penalty kicks in a shootout to boost SWR (11-5-2) to a 3-2 county quarterfinal win over Babylon last year.

“It’s always nice when you have a strong goalie coming back who really knows the game,” Gilmore said.

That also goes for the Wildcats’ back line, which includes senior captains Sara Hobbes and Maddy Joannou, senior Maura Ginley, junior Brooke Langella and sophomore Alex Constant.

“When you don’t allow a lot of goals in and your goalie has a lot of shutouts the year before, coming back with a strong seasoned defense is always important,” Gilmore said.

The midfield is just as impressive behind senior captains Lakin Ciampo and Gianna Cacciola. “I couldn’t ask for two better kids to be central midfielders,” Gilmore said, noting that both players have started since their freshman year and have celebrated two county titles. “They really understand the game and what it takes to win.”

They will be complemented by Lydia Radonavitch and Jillian Hobbes, who was one of the Wildcats’ leading scorers in the Brookhaven League.

The big question mark is who will replace the graduated dynamic duo of Nicky Constant (13 goals, 10 assists) and Emma Kirkpatrick (10 goals, four assists) up front.

Gilmore felt that she might have found an answer in freshman Graceann Leonard, who played some (two goals) as an eighth-grader last year before leading the Brookhaven League in goal scoring this summer.

“She didn’t play much but we knew that she would get her time,” Gilmore said. “When she got in, made the most of it. But watching her play over the summer, I knew it was the right decision. She looked so good.”

Ashley Borriello, an outside midfielder, was moved up to partner with Leonard. “She and Grace are a great combination together,” the coach said. “They have speed, they have skill.”

The Wildcats were No. 3 in the Suffolk Division II preseason power rankings.

“So, we draw a tough schedule, which makes it a little challenging when you’re trying to get everyone in the game and sub,” Gilmore said. “But I also think it’s nice that we do have that schedule. So, come playoff time we’re ready. We’ve played the best teams and we’re ready to go. In years past, we had some easy, 6-0, 7-0 games and then you get a little false self-confidence about how good you truly are.”

And before we forget, Gilmore has some more goals as well, although they might not come this year. One’s for the team, the other personal.

“I want to build the younger kids up,” she said. “Next year is going to very important because we have seven seniors. So, with so many seniors, it’s really important to bridge that gap between the lower and upperclassmen.”

“For the girls, I just want them to be successful, to have fun and stay healthy.”

Gilmore enters her ninth season three wins shy of 100 career wins (97-26-9). She has taken her team to the playoffs every year except for 2012.

Riverhead coach Samba Traore’s goals are much more down to earth. There are no county titles or even the playoffs in sight. He just wants to see the Blue Waves improve.

While they finished with a sub-par record (4-11-1), those numbers meant great progress over 2017 (1-13).

“Last year was one of the biggest improvements because we came out of a really bad season.” Traore said. “Last season was one of the biggest improvements. We couldn’t win the league games [before]. We won three league games last year.

“Small steps in the right direction. That’s what I like about it. Hopefully, we just go a step above again. I like the way we’re progressing.”

Traore’s goals would be finishing among the top 17 teams among the 29 large school teams.

“I know we’re not going to make the playoffs because we’re still in a building process,” he said. “Our goal this year is at least between the top 15 to 20. Last year we finished 23rd, so that was a big improvement.”

Riverhead’s strength is its back line where senior Megan McIntosh, junior Rebecca Cohen and sophomore Marina Ronzoni are deployed. “Those three players are the good graces from last year,” Traore said. “I am happy for them.”

Senior forward Krista Romer is expected to provide the scoring punch.

Asked what made McIntosh and Romer special, Traore replied: “I’ve had them from the seventh grade. They have been with me through the ups and downs. When they’re on the field, they’re always battling, always willing to win. Even sometimes when it doesn’t go our way, they’re always ready to play. That’s what I like about them.”

Traore knows it will be a difficult climb to reach the playoffs. Many, if not all, of his foes have feeder problems from local youth soccer clubs. The Blue Waves don’t.

“Those club teams, they just feed the schools,” he said. “We are in a difficult position because most of the girls don’t play organized soccer. They only play for fun. I have them do winter training, summer training to get better and get ready for the fall season. This year we played in the Brookhaven Summer League and it wasn’t that bad … We’re not going to stop training until we get better.”

Photo caption: Goalkeeper Alison Devall was part of a Shoreham-Wading River defense that wasn’t easy to score against last year. (Credit: Bob Liepa, file)