Thud. Thud. Thud.
That sound was heard with regularity as the Shoreham-Wading River girls soccer team stroked the ball around the field turf at Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field. The Wildcats connected passes, worked give-and-gos and, won of course, as they are prone to do.
Thanks to the seeming time warp caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the fall of 2019 may seem a lot longer ago than it actually was. Still, SWR remains the reigning state Class A champion, an honor the Wildcats hold dear to their hearts.
If opponents were hoping SWR would suffer a decline since lifting its first state championship, they are surely disappointed. The big takeaway so far in Suffolk County League VII is this: SWR is still good. Quite good.
The first-place Wildcats completed the first half of their 12-game regular season Monday with a sparkling 6-0 record, courtesy of a 6-0 trouncing of visiting Hampton Bays. It extended SWR’s 19-game unbeaten streak. SWR’s last loss was on Sept. 26, 2019 (2-1 to Half Hollow Hills West).
Coach Adrian Gilmore got a preview of what this season’s team would be like from watching her players in indoor tournaments and scrimmages.
“Just watching the girls play, I remember [assistant coach Brian] Ferguson and I looking at each other and we’d be like, ‘Oh my God, they’re so good,’ ” she said. “So, yeah, I think we still have that spark. We still have the skill.”
No question about that. All of the above was on display against overmatched Hampton Bays (2-2, 2-2).
The final score was misleading since SWR took its foot off the gas pedal after taking a 4-0 halftime lead. In the second half the Wildcats largely played keep-away and held off from pressing the attack. The sportsmanlike approach was in character for a team that still plays the possession game that brought it state glory. Call it smart soccer.
“We definitely work on that a lot,” said midfielder/captain Lydia Radonavitch.
Gilmore said, “That’s how I always played soccer, that’s how I was taught, so I always try to teach that with my team.”
Ashley Borriello, an Adelphi-bound senior forward who netted 17 goals in 2019, bagged one goal Monday, bringing her season total to seven.
“I think her speed of play is fantastic, and she’s able to have amazing foot skills and just touch the ground and dribble around players,” Radonavitch said. “The other teams just man-mark her, two or three players just on her, and she’s able to get around and use other players on the field to her advantage.”
Kya Condon had a busy day with a goal from nine shots and two assists. Her sister, Ava Condon, Kaitlyn Coster, Alexa Constant and Nicolette Joannou also found the net. Borriello, Olivia DeRoches and Jillian Hobbes each had an assist.
SWR took 20 shots and held Hampton Bays to none. Goalkeeper Emily Cordano didn’t touch the ball once in the first half before Morgan Lesiewicz stepped in net for the second half.
SWR has outscored its opponents, 33-2, and all but one of its six games have been decided by four goals or more.
Sure, SWR lost about half of its starters from 2019, but players have taken on enhanced roles. Kya Condon, for one, was hurt for the entire 2019 season. “I think she’s one of the top kids,” said Gilmore.
And there’s freshman defender Grace Hillis, a transfer from Riverhead. “She’s phenomenal,” said Gilmore.
Since all of this season’s state championships have been canceled because of the pandemic, SWR will not get a chance to repeat as a state champion until the regular fall season — COVID-19 permitting — but the Wildcats still have league and county titles to shoot for.
Being a state champion has a carryover affect.
“You can definitely look at it two ways,” Borriello said. “It’s like definitely a little pressure thinking about it, like going against a hard team, they’ll be like, ‘We want to beat you,’ or whatever. It’s definitely like, ‘Oh, we have to make sure that we step it up this game and we play hard and everything,’ but it’s definitely just cool to have that on our backs.”
Radonavitch said the state crown puts a “target on our backs because teams know we’re state champs and want to beat us, but I think that it gives us the confidence to know that we were that good and we still are that good.”