With Samantha Kolb no longer on its roster, it’d be easy to assume the Long Beach girls’ soccer team will regress this year.
The Marines finished 2022 with a 14-2 record — best in program history — reaching the Nassau County semifinals for the first time while Kolb led all of Long Island with 29 goals.
“What she left behind is exactly what she gave,” Long Beach coach Ashley Castanio said. “There is no making up for it because she left her mark that everybody has to look up to.”
But, while it seemed that Kolb carried much of the load last year, Castanio explained that a sense of togetherness was truly at the heart of Long Beach’s success.
“We were just really united as a team,” Castanio said. “That’s what took us that far. We really bonded, and that’s what brought us on a nice little Cinderella story for us and our school. We were just having fun. That’s the bottom line.”
So, with Kolb now graduated, it won’t be just one person filling her cleats, at least not alone.
Taking over the senior captaincy for Kolb is Rylee Roberts, who served as the team’s junior captain last year.
“I like to have a senior and a junior captain so when one leaves, one knows exactly what to do,” Castanio said. “Rylee has been amazing. She’s strong, she’s calm, she’s determined and focused. She’s here for a job, and she’s on a mission. She wants to be a role model for younger kids and mentor them.”
Under Roberts for the Marines is junior captain Aysu Uver. Without Kolb serving as a lethal scoring threat, Uver and the rest of the defense will be central to Long Beach building off of last season.
“Overall, we’ll stick to our concept, which is getting players out of the back and scoring goals defensively,” said Castanio. “If you don’t score goals defensively, you don’t score goals as a team. It’s not just the forwards. You have to score together.”
That playing together mantra has struck a chord within Long Beach. Although the Marines fell short of their ultimate goal last year, Castanio said she had more girls than ever try out to join the team this season. One being Noemi Wright, who is taking over as the team’s starting center-back.
“Noemi came in during the summer as a junior and has already shown incredible growth,” Castanio said. “She’s going to make a major impact this year.”
So no, Samantha Kolb won’t be returning to Long Beach this season, but the Marines are confident as they press forward anyway.
“It’s our family versus their team,” said Castanio. “On paper, we might not be as good as other teams, but at the end of the day, we’re a family. That’s why we can come back to win games, we can tie games, we can hold on to games because we do it for each other.”
Long Beach is back in action Friday when it hosts Mepham at 5 p.m.