Vin Mercogliano checking in with my thoughts and observations from my visit with Briarcliff this morning:
In a season filled with impressive victories, it was one of Briarcliff’s few losses that wound up defining its 2013 campaign in the eyes of most onlookers.
The Lady Bears earned the top seed in Class B before losing a double-overtime thriller against Albertus Magnus in the semifinals, coming up short of a section title for the fourth straight year. But with nine of the 11 starters from that team back in 2014, they’ve moved on and look forward to their shot at redemption.
“We talked a lot after that game, and we all kind of decided that was one of those games where you put everything out on the field,” All-State senior Grace Orr said. “None of us had anything that we regretted. We put every effort that we had into it, and sometimes it just doesn’t work out for you. They played a great game and we just lost. That happens. I don’t think we’re bitter about it. I just think it makes us want to win that much more.”
A four-year title drought might seem short-lived for most programs, but after dominating the girls soccer landscape in Section 1 in the late 2000s, the expectations are different at Briarcliff.
Since 2009, the Bears have repeatedly fallen just short of the ultimate goal – winning a section title – but this may be their best opportunity since then. After fielding almost exclusively juniors and sophomores last season, this year’s team is loaded with talent and will once again be considered the favorite in Class B.
Could this be the year that Briarcliff gets back on top?
“We’re excited to have everyone back,” senior Cassidy Carrafiello said. “We’re all kind of a family. We’ve been together the last few years, and we haven’t really had anyone graduate, so it’s really our time, we feel.”
• Orr is probably the most high-profile returner after being selected to the All-State team last season, and she could play pretty much anywhere on the field. After playing on defense last year, look for Orr to push up into the midfield more often. “That’s a good question,” she said when asked which position she’ll play this season. “I’d be happy anywhere on the field. I just want to be a good example for the younger girls. … This is my fourth year on the team, so I’m kind of experienced. I hope to be a leader.”
• The list of experienced returners goes well beyond Orr and Carrafiello, as Kelsey Simpson, Jenna Heitzler, Allie Misuraca, Lexi Grasso, Nikki Nero and Carly Fanelli were also names that came up. That’s a lot of players with varsity experience. “I definitely think that we’re well-balanced,” Carrafiello said. “Anyone on our team can really play anywhere. We’re pretty versatile, so I feel like in every part of the field, we’re solid.”
• Orr and Carrafiello also spoke highly of goalkeeper Sydney Wolin, who got some playing time last year while All-State keeper Sarah Goldstein was out with an injury. Wolin played very well during that stint, which gives the team confidence in her entering this season. “She’s unbelievable,” Orr said.
• Carrafiello is coming off of ACL surgery, but she’s been cleared to play and participated fully while I was there on Tuesday. “I’m excited to play with some of my senior friends again,” Orr said. “Cassidy is just coming back from an ACL injury. I haven’t played with her in six months, so that’s going to be great. I’m sure she’s going to come back stronger than ever.”
• Final word goes to Orr, who spoke about dealing with expectations: “I think we have high expectations for ourselves, especially. I think a lot of people in the town think we’re going to go pretty far and do well, but honestly, as long as we play hard every game, whatever happens, happens. Last year, we had a lot of injuries. We still have a few coming back right now, but our expectation is that everyone wants to win and is going to do whatever they can to win. After that, we can’t really ask for much more.”
Photos and video by Mark Vergari/The Journal News