With only four seniors, the North Shore girls’ soccer team will be younger if not better.
The Vikings lost a last-minute heartbreaker in the Nassau County Class A quarterfinals to Long Beach, 1-0, off a long shot from 35 yards out.
It was a tough way for their season to end. In 2023, the maroon has to make up for key personnel losses, including their rock-solid top defender Ari Guss and sniper Kylee Colbert.
The biggest coaching decision is moving star midfielder Sofia Martini from her natural position to the backline to make up for Guss’ loss.
“We lost strong kids but also have strong younger, younger kids coming up - 8th graders and freshmen,’’ veteran coach Lauren Gotta said. “We’ll have leadership from our seniors. This group has been with us for five years, since 8th grade.’’
Martini’s adjustment to defense will loom large to the season’s success. North Shore finished last season at 5-7-1 record but peaked in the playoffs.
“We’re younger and have a lot of new players,’’ Martini said. “ At midfield, we have a lot of strong players. Our forward line is young but really energetic and work well together so that should get us far.’’
Tactically, Martini wants to bring a different approach to the backline. “We lost Ari – our backbone of the defense - but we have new pieces to replace her and I’m moving to the backline to compensate for that,’’ Martini said.
“We’re trying to focus on playing with each other instead of having one person do all the work,’’ Martini said of the defensive brigade. “Move the ball fast and less time touching the ball. It’s the best way to get around you to move as a unit instead of as individual players.’’
The goal-scoring shouldn’t be as big an uncertainty as the defense. “We have a few players that could put the ball away,’’ Gotta said.
Forward Sam DiBenedetto, and Crystal Knoell, a midfielder, are the major scoring threats. The two juniors play on the same club team in Central Islip (Susa) so their chemistry should be well-established.
Striker Erin Lily La Rosa figures as a strong offensive player. An added bonus would be extra productivity from midfielder Isa Guerrero, who is a 10th grader.
“she’s an up and comer,’’ Gotta said. Her growth has been unbelievable this year. We’re hoping for her to be super solid this year.’’
Senior Meredith Papiro is back in goal and the Vikings want to utilize her talented feet this season.
On defense, junior Ali Basile, one of the captains, will join freshman Zoe Carillo as the Vikings try to protect their end of the field.
Gotta is also excited about a new addition to the coaching staff – former Syosset coach Joe Marchetta who shook free.
“We’re lucky enough to pick him up,’’ Gotta said. “He’s very detail-oriented. So many great ideas. It’s exactly what I needed.to get me out of my 18-year coaching funk. You need someone to give you new ideas and see it from a different lens.’’
The 2022 quarterfinal loss was a bitter pill since North Shore felt it had dominated action. The aim is to peak for the 2023 playoffs when many of their younger players will have more seasoning.
“We’re looking to use the regular season to build our strongest team for the postseason,’’ Gotta said. “We have all season to figure it out.”