At this stage, the comparisons may begin. How does the current Shoreham-Wading River girls soccer team stack up to the 2019 SWR squad that won its first and only state championship in 2019?
One thing can be said for certain: The current Wildcats have done something that the 2019 team didn’t have an opportunity to do. They won a county championship on their home field!
Top-seeded SWR pulled off that rare feat Tuesday as Kya Condon scored two goals in a 3-1 defeat of No. 2 East Islip in the Suffolk County Class A final at Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field. Fans chanted “LIC! LIC” (for Long Island championship) with less than a minute remaining. Moments later, the Wildcats mobbed their goalkeeper, Morgan Lesiewicz, to celebrate the team’s sixth county title. SWR (15-2-1) had previously won county crowns in 1986, 1987, 2014, 2017 and 2019, according to coach Mike Gengler.
“It’s honestly unbelievable,” Ava Gengler, who scored SWR’s second goal, told reporters. “It’s one of the best things I’ve ever experienced in my life.”
With an opportunity for better things to come. SWR will play MacArthur in the Long Island final Saturday at Berner Middle School in Massapequa.
“From the beginning, we knew this team was special, that they were going to do big things,” SWR defender Jessica Nastasi said. “We knew we were gonna do something special.”
This has been a special season for SWR. The League IV champion has won 16 consecutive games, outscoring teams, 80-2, during that stretch, with an airtight defense that has posted 14 shutouts.
“Our defense is great,” said Nastasi, who played on the back line with Mia Gengler, Annie Sheehan and Grace Hillis. “We have some really high-caliber defenders who just work hard. Their grit is incredible.”
Before the first soccer ball was kicked this season, the Wildcats knew SWR would host the county final. In most instances, the final is played at a neutral site. It turned out not to be the case this time, though.
Back in August, at team meetings in a classroom, the playoff brackets were displayed on a SmartBoard, with the county championship at SWR circled. “We were like, ‘This is where we’re gonna get and this is how we’re gonna do it,’ ” said Condon.
Talk about a motivator.
“That was a huge motivation,” said Nastasi.
And SWR made the most of the opportunity.
League III champion East Islip (14-3) was to be taken seriously, having won its previous 11 games and outscoring opponents, 59-8, in those games.
Condon headed in a cross from Nastasi for the game’s first shot and a 1-0 lead 4 minutes, 19 seconds into the match.
Gengler doubled that lead at 19:53, receiving a pass from Abigail Beran before sending a left-footed effort inside the right goalpost.
Condon appeared to seal things with her second goal 8:35 from the end of the game. A ball from GraceAnn Leonard sent Condon through and she slipped a shot past goalkeeper Nikki Miller.
East Islip kept its faint hopes alive, though, when Mikayla Horton headed in a delivery from Kate Alexander with 5:07 to go.
SWR survived some close calls over the course of the game. Alexander struck a curling shot ticketed for the upper right corner, but Lesiewicz (six saves) did well to get a hand to it. Vanessa McGuire had an open goal to shoot at with Lesiewicz out of position, but missed wide right. Jenna Borelli cranked a blistering attempt that Lesiewicz fisted straight up high into the air before collecting the ball. Krista Deutsch sent a header off the crossbar.
“I’m insanely proud of us, but throughout the whole season, we always knew this moment was coming,” Ava Gengler said. “And today, throughout the whole time, any time I talked to one of my teammates, we weren’t scared. We told each other we’re going to win. So I’m honestly not even surprised, just so proud of all of us and what we did today.”
Now, back to that comparison with the 2019 team.
“Both teams both had the same element,” Nastasi said. “They loved each other. They worked together. They had good chemistry. They worked with each other. We were just in harmony, our chemistry on the team, our chemistry on the field as well as our chemistry off the field was the same. So, really similar elements were there and that’s why we were able to win the county championship then and why we are able to win now.”