SOMERS, N.Y. - A 1-0 halftime lead evaporated and so did Somers girls soccer’s reign over Class A as the Tuskers fell 2-1 to Pearl River in the finals last season. With the loss, the Tuskers came up short of winning their third consecutive section title and they are looking to climb back to the top in 2017.
“Hopefully we’ll use that as a great motivation,” Somers coach Paul Saia said of last year’s loss in the finals. “I know we have a habit—and I hope we continue that habit—of getting to that sectional final, but it’s not a given. Class A is very tough. I think that we need to just take the same attitude that we’ve taken for the past few years and treat each game as what we’re going to focus on. My motto is, ‘One game at a time. Don’t look past the game you’re in right now.’ Absolutely use that game (with Pearl River) as motivation. I said, ‘You don’t know when you’re going to get back there and you can’t take it for granted.’ I know some of these seniors want to go out on a high note.”
A foursome of key players went the cap-and-gown route in Melina Couzis, Ciara Ostrander, Jenna Menta and Mary Murphy. The first three of the quartet are playing Division 1 soccer in college.
“We are using our loss in the section final as huge motivation for this year,” said senior Claire Mensi, a team captain. “We have a lot of girls stepping up into new roles, and I think we are really excited to show everyone what we can do. We want to prove people wrong this year that have underestimated us and therefore a lot of hard work has resulted from it.”
Couzis and Ostrander were All-Americans last season and scored goals in bunches for the Tuskers. The dynamic duo combined for an astounding 123 goals and 121 assists over their varsity careers. To say the least, it won’t be easy to make up for their production.
“We’re going to have to share the goal scoring,” Saia said. “Obviously this is a different team than it was last year. The kids are working hard and they’re working well together. I feel very positive about this season.”
Somers also lost two key players to academy soccer in Alexandra Kalayjian and Katrina Kurtz, who are both juniors.
Mensi returns at center back but is expected to play all over the field. The Bucknell-bound senior played the first seven games last season before suffering a bone fracture in her foot, which kept her out the rest of the way.
“She can play anywhere and I may use her anywhere,” Saia said. “She should have a great year. She’s a very composed player, sees the field very well and has a great touch. She’s a great defender and has the size.”
Mensi said that watching from the sidelines while missing the majority of last season was difficult for her, but she is looking to go out with a bang her senior year with her contributions on the field and in leading the Tuskers while helping to develop their young talent.
“I want to help this team get as far as we can, and we have the potential to do great,” Mensi said. “But it’s going to take everyone on and off the field to help us attain that goal.”
Senior Amanda Brugger, another captain, returns and will play either midfield or defense. Fellow seniors Sloane Ramsay, Ella Beresford and Danielle Cuchiarella will be featured at either midfield or forward. Liz Saraceno, a captain, is a returner at midfield for a Tusker team that is very versatile.
“Coach Saia and coach Daniella Rock have brought in girls that are willing to step up and take on new roles,” Mensi said. “Some of us returning players are being moved into different positions, so over the past two weeks our coaches have done a good job of trying to move girls around to find the combination that works best. Although we lost nine seniors, I don’t think our team dynamic has been thrown off. I think it’s going great so far. We have become close with the younger girls, and hopefully we’ll see some of that in our upcoming scrimmages.”
Saia expects the defense to be a strength while the offense should be a work in progress.
“The offense hopefully will come around,” Saia said. “Like I said, we lost a lot of scoring from last year but we’ll figure it out.”
Returning senior Tina Morgante is a midfielder who is currently nursing an injury. Juniors Mia Klayman and Alix Goldman, who both can play either defense or midfield, are also returning for Somers. Sophomore midfielder/forward Jessica Rodriguez is another player that is back from last year’s team.
Lauren Jockimo, a senior, will be back in goal for the Tuskers, who finished last season at 15-3-1.
Saia is optimistic about some talented newcomers to the team who are coming off an undefeated JV season last year in sophomore defender Alexis Atkinson, junior Alex Pittman, junior goalie Madisen Pickel, junior midfielder Alexa Burns, junior midfielder/forward Sarah DiRubbo, sophomore defender Katherine Olsen, sophomore Jordan May and sophomore Karlene Kurtz, who can play any position.
“I feel like I’ve taken the best soccer players that we have and we’re going to find places for them,” said Saia, who has 23 athletes on the roster. “It’s going to be tough because I’ve got a lot of kids of equal ability. Sometimes in the past it’s seemed to be very clear cut who the starters are and who the backups are. I don’t feel like I have that situation this year. It’s not clear at this moment anyway.”
Freshmen Dahlia Pepe and Noelle DeMarinis are expected to be contributors offensively, Saia said. Sophomore midfielder/defender Kayleigh Kenny and sophomore midfielder Meghan Dineen are two other newcomers.
The Tuskers face a tough test to open the season when they host John Jay-East Fishkill at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 6.
“We always set the bar high,” Saia said of the team’s expectations. “Reach for the stars and hope for the best.”