Soccer

Perfect Red Hook fueled by chemistry, leadership, hunger

There was talking and laughing, but also learning.

Red Hook's Claire Dyal, right, takes the ball downfield against Wallkill during the MHAL semifinal game at Franklin D. Roosevelt High School last year. Red Hook and Wallkill will meet again in the MHAL semifinals on Monday.

Red Hook’s Claire Dyal, right, takes the ball downfield against Wallkill during the MHAL semifinal game at Franklin D. Roosevelt High School last year. Red Hook and Wallkill will meet again in the MHAL semifinals on Monday.

And no, the Red Hook High School girls soccer team was not sitting in coach Jason Pavlich’s chemistry class.

The Raiders on Oct. 7 — all 22 of them — had a team sleepover, and learned much about each other.

“We hung out and talked about soccer, talked about our lives,” senior midfielder Alexa Franceschi said. “This is the first year I’ve been on a team that’s so close.

“I’m an only child, but I’ve found a sister in everyone on the team.”

That closeness is one reason why the Raiders are still perfect in 14 matches this season, entering Monday’s Mid-Hudson Athletic League semifinals in Hyde Park.

Senior guidance is another reason. Franceschi, with fellow seniors Isabelle LaBarbera, Claire Dyal, Megan Jankowiak and Angelina Maneri have been leading by example. It helps that the younger players, like eighth graders Tessa Husted, Abby Williams and Casey Shein, are willing to learn.

“We want them to feel comfortable,” Franceschi, a fifth-year player, said. “We don’t want them to be scared.”

To this point, the Raiders have had little to fear.

Red Hook's Lauren Engel, left, rushes the ball as Wallkill's Ashlan Hubbard, right, looks for an open teammate during the MHAL semifinal game at Franklin D. Roosevelt High School.

Red Hook’s Lauren Engel, left, rushes the ball as Wallkill’s Ashlan Hubbard, right, looks for an open teammate during the MHAL semifinal game at Franklin D. Roosevelt High School.

Red Hook has recorded shutouts in seven games this year. The Raiders’ latest blanking came at the expense of Rondout Valley on Oct. 11, 9-0. LaBarbera scored five goals in the victory.

But that’s not to say every win was accomplished in dazzling fashion.

Against Section 2‘s Columbia the day after the sleepover, the Raiders fell behind 1-0 in the game’s first 10 minutes. Resiliency kicked in, though, and Red Hook stormed back to win, 2-1.

“We clawed our way back,” Pavlich said. “A little bit of adversity isn’t the worst thing for us.”

Notwithstanding the win streak, Red Hook expects plenty of adversity in the MHAL semifinals. At 7 p.m. on Monday, the Raiders will play Wallkill at Franklin D. Roosevelt High School. On the other side of the bracket, Spackenkill and Rhinebeck will clash in a semifinal at 5 p.m. The winners will meet for the championship at 5 p.m. on Thursday at Roosevelt.

Last year, Wallkill knocked off Red Hook in the MHAL semifinals.

“We’re starting to get a little more focused in practice,” Pavlich added. “Nothing but our best is going to do on Monday.”

If the attitude of the players is any indication, however, this year’s result might be different. Red Hook last won a MHAL title in 2009, their third straight.

“We’re extremely hungry for a MHAL title,” Franceschi said. “We’re trying to make it all the way. This is the best team I’ve been on and I think we can go all the way.”

A.J. Martelli: amartelli@poughkeepsiejournal.com, 845-437-4836, Twitter: @AJM_PoJoSports

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