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Long Beach aims for improvement

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Ranked sixth in Nassau County, Long Beach showed its youth through the first 10 days of what promises to be a season-long challenging Conference I girls’ lacrosse schedule.

“We have a hungry and eager group that’s going to play better as the season goes along,” said coach Rachel Ray, who guided the Marines to the Class B semifinals in 2019. “It’s been a rough start, but we’ll work through it. We have to improve on draws, ground balls and clears.”

Long Beach will face each of the top five ranked teams once, and the four teams ranked below them twice in a 13-game regular season crammed into 33 days. With Manhasset dropped into Class C, Garden City and South Side appear the teams to beat in Class B.

“I keep telling the girls it’s not how you start but how you finish,” Ray said. “We need to have a statement game against one of the top five teams to give us a confidence boost and prove we belong in the conversation. We’ve been practicing great. We just have to carried it over into games.”

Junior goaltender Sarah Gusler did everything she could to keep the Marines close in losses to South Side, Wantagh and North Shore to start the campaign. She’s a returning starter who’s developed strong clears and is the vocal leader in the defensive zone. “Sarah has great vision and runs the show in the back,” Ray said. “She’s already made so many on-the-doorstep saves to keep us in games.” Sophomore backup Emily Backlin will also see some action in the net, the coach noted.

On defense, seniors Maura Conway and Paige Levin operate in the low post and their communication is key, Ray said. Conway is a captain. Senior Emily Aitchison, a standout on the soccer field, brings the same aggressive and physical mentality to lacrosse according to Ray. Junior Morgan McCaffrey is a solid when it comes to denying opponents in one-on-one situations.

The midfield took a hit when Keira Bauer suffered a season-ending injury during volleyball. Senior Cyla Timperio made the move to midfield to handle some of the draws along with senior Rivers Cunningham, a Hofstra commit who is fast and physical and makes things happen between the 30s. Junior Cate Miller is a defensive-minded middie who can also catch and finish, Ray said. “Cate is everywhere, sideline to sideline and end to end,” said Ray, who is excited about the talent of freshman Ava Main and eighth-grader Delaney Chernoff.

On the attack, sophomore Delaney Radin is Long Beach’s go-to player who in 2019 had 17 goals and 26 assists as an eighth-grader. “She’s a special player who every opponent will game plan to stop,” Ray said. “She has incredible stick skills and her vision is beyond high school level.”

Senior captain Reagan Martinsen is a shifty attacker who dodges hard to the cage, while talented seventh-grader Skyler Kilfeather is already proving she belongs with goals in each of her first three varsity games.