Despite significant roster turnover and injuries, the Spackenkill High School girls soccer team ended up with the exact same result as the last two years: a 3-0 win over James I. O’Neill in the Section 9 Class B championship game at Faller Field.
“It’s a three-peat. It’s the icing on top of the cake. It’s a brand-new team and we worked so hard for it,” said Spackenkill senior co-captain Aislinn Speranza, who followed up her sister Caitlin’s goal with a goal in each half. “We deserved it.”
Spackenkill, which utilized a possession-based game powered by the midfield, lost seven seniors from last year’s title team, but simply reloaded.
Losing star goalkeeper Beesanne Kurzum to graduation might have hurt Spackenkill, but so did losing goalkeepers Savannah Barefoot and Christina Hartenfels to preseason injuries.
Meghan Pantano, normally a defender, played the position this season for the first time in her life.
“As Spackenkill goalies, we can just adapt,” said Pantano, who made three saves. “We’ll always have good people coming in.”
Spackenkill (17-1-1) moves on to the state regional final on Nov. 9 at Faller Field against the winner of the regional semifinal between the champions of Section 1 and Section 4.
Caitlin Speranza, an eighth-grader, scored off a cross from Katie Lillis 15:31 into the game to give the Spartans a 1-0 lead, and Aislinn Speranza took care of the rest of the scoring. She curled a shot under the crossbar with 9:02 left in the first half and then essentially scored the exact same way with 5:10 left in the game to clinch the win.
“It was awesome to play with (Caitlin), especially since it’s my senior year,” Aislinn Speranza said.
Spackenkill coach Mike Corbett said he needs to base his game plan on the strengths of his personnel and said he tries to put the best players in the middle of the field. O’Neill (12-6-1) was unable to register a shot on goal until 12 minutes into the second half.
“My teams are small,” Corbett said. “We’re quick. We’re fast, but we don’t have physical teams. We’ve got to play possession, one touch and move the ball up the field.”
Juliana Neves, the captain in the midfield, said knowing how many new faces were in the Spackenkill lineup meant the Spartans needed to stay focused.
“I think a lot of it was the mental game,” Neves said. “For the last two years, we had virtually the same team, so a lot of it was believing and working together. Passing was a huge key component of this game.”
Senior defender Julia Kollesar, who captains the defense, was pleased with the win.
“We’ve gotten this far the last two years, so we want to see how far we can go,” Kollesar said. “We want to see how far our hard work takes us.”
Corbett knows a stiff challenge faces his team next week in Middletown, regardless of the opponent.
“Whoever we play, we’re going to have to play the game of our lives to win it,” Corbett said. “My goal is to see what we can do and stay in the game.”