NORTH SALEM An inch here or there and Bronxville might not be such a heartbreaking word among North Salem soccer players.
But for three straight years the Broncos have been the roadblock between the Tigers and their chance for a sectional title.
Last year proved particularly cruel as two Tigers shots hit the post and one Broncos shot found net in a 1-0 Bronxville win.
“That was very rough,” senior Shayna Levy said.
The veteran team that finished 15-3 last year worked out on Tuesday, striving for a different ending.
“It all comes down to heart. I think with 10 seniors, we’ll be raring for that win,” Levy said.
And it’s not just present-day Tigers who’d be happy to top Bronxville, according to senior Kaitlyn Murphy (pictured below during Tuesday drill).
“Just beating them would mean an awful lot to the girls who used to play,’’ she said.
One of Bronxville’s strengths are corners and North Salem will work to stop their conversion. It was a corner that did the Tigers in last season.
But, beyond that, coach Bob Martin is seeking consistency from his kids. He terms that an intangible, along with being in the right place at the right time.
“Intangible things, I think, are the big difference for any team in any game,” he said.
One thing he likes about his squad is its upbeat approach.
“They’re positive about things,” he said.
He figures his squad’s maturation could make a difference, too.
Another asset is senior goalie Olivia Kaiser.
“I thought she had sort of a break-out year ,” Martin said. “It was her first year starting on varsity and she was a pleasant addition.”
She experienced, he remarked, “baptism by fire,” but was up to the challenge because she’s both an intuitive and very aggressive keeper.
Levy has made the transition from center mid, which she played her freshman and sophomore years, to center defense.
But her scoring touch is still valued. She converted four free kicks into goals, along with one penalty kick.
While a teammate will drop if she goes up with the ball, she said she enjoys defense more than center mid.
She was good enough there to be named league player of the year and to gain all-state h0nors.
“A lot of teams are about kicking it forward and go, go, go,’ Levy said. “We like to pull back before jumping the gun.”
That approach has worked more times than not.
This year, though, new thoughts may come into play if North Salem again faces Bronxville in sectionals.
Maybe toward that end or maybe just to improve their overall games for any opponent, Martin had his players Tuesday practice some ball moves, including the Cruyff turn, outside touch, pull back and the dummy in which a player runs past and over the ball, the turns to take it. (Photo shows junior Julia D’Innocenzo practicing a pass off a move.)
“You have a bag there,” he said. “You want to pull it out and use it. This is just one more thing in your bag of tricks.”
But the ultimate trick, of course, would be beating the Broncos.