Oceanside navigates to conference title

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Before the season, Oceanside girls’ soccer coach Marianna Winchester said that she was going to allow her girls to “reach for the stars” as they tried to avenge a heartbreaking finish to the 2018 season.

They ended up grabbing the whole galaxy.

The Lady Sailors, who failed to miss the playoffs despite losing just one game last year, claimed the school’s first conference title in over two decades after edging Freeport, 1-0, on Oct. 22. Senior Ashley Ladner provided the heroics with an arcing goal from about 25 yards out with about three minutes remaining for Oceanside, which earned a No. 7 seed in the postseason.

The win capped a historic 12-0-1 season (11-0-1 in Conference AA2) in which the Lady Sailors posted a whopping 12 shutouts in the 13 games while outscoring the opposition by an amazing 70-2. The two goals allowed came in their only “blemish” of the season, a 2-2 tie at Port Washington on Oct. 5.

“I rephrased my term for them as far as being the dream team,” Winchester said. “They started off strong and we were able to maintain keeping us in a competition where [we] only gave up two goals in 13 games.”

The title was especially sweet for Oceanside, which went 10-1-2 last year, but amazingly did not qualify for the Nassau Class AA playoffs thanks to a quirky playoff seeding rule. That’s because only the winner of that conference, which turned out to be 11-1-1 Plainview, advanced to the postseason. Oceanside’s last loss was a 3-1 defeat to those Lady Hawks in that season’s finale, sealing an unfortunate fate.

That made this year’s accomplishment even sweeter for Winchester.

“I think so because I feel sorry for the seniors that left last year knowing that they deserved to be in the playoffs, but didn’t have the opportunity,” she said. “This year, coming back, I said to them, ‘I don’t want you to get cheated out again this year.’”

Just about every facet of the team clicked this fall. Defensively, sophomore center back Lily Johnson consistently shut down the other’s team most explosive player and had help from since-injured Alyssa Stramberg and unheralded center midfielder Micaella Romagno. The trio, along with freshman fill-in Megan Checola, helped ease the workload of goalkeeper Mary Cecil, who only had to make 26 saves this season.

Winchester saved her highest praise for her young star Johnson.

“Over the course of 30 years that I’ve coached, she has to be in the top five that I’ve had that just excel unbelievable,” she gushed. “She basically has shut down every single girl that has been the key player in every game that we’ve played this year.”

The Lady Sailors also had three players reach double-digit goals. Sophomore Julie Strianese made tremendous strides with 18, including four three-goal games, and Ladner finishing strong with seven of her 15 tallies coming in the last three games. Fellow senior Luigina Serrao’s move from striker to outside midfield paid dividends after she collected 10 goals.