SHRUB OAK, N.Y. – Returning players for the Lakeland girls soccer team this year include two of its senior captains, winger Ava Pagliaro and central midfielder Francesca Gerbasi, who can each put the ball in the net with high efficiency.

Both shared team-high honors in goals scored a year ago, with 10 apiece.

“I believe Ava and I were so successful last year because of our chemistry with our team, and our dedication,” Gerbasi said. “We work very well off of our midfield players and are versatile, in the sense that we are able to play in multiple positions. To add to this, we are very dedicated to the team. We make sure we put in 100 percent every time we step out on that field, especially this year, because we never know when it will be the last time. I think in order to be equally as successful as last year, we just have to go off what worked for us in the past, and build on it.”

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Familiarity with one another is a big reason for their success.

“My favorite thing about playing with my co-captain, Francesca, is that we have been playing together since we were in fifth grade, so we have a really good connection when it comes to creating passes and making runs for each other,” Pagliaro said. “We always have the same mindset, so it makes it very easy and fun to play together.”

Pagliaro said that it means a lot to her to be named captain.

“I have been playing on the varsity soccer team since freshman year and I have worked really hard in the past four years, so being named captain showed me that my hard work and dedication didn’t go unnoticed,” Pagliaro said.

Gerbasi is equally thrilled about being named captain.

“Being named captain means more than anyone could imagine,” Gerbasi said. “I started playing high-school soccer in seventh grade, making this my sixth year, and always looked up to the older girls, especially the captains. So, for me to be able to take on this role and be someone the younger girls can look up to, is so nostalgic.”

Despite the obstacles, the Hornet captains made sure the team stayed together.

“Although it was a challenge because of COVID-19 restrictions, we were still able to have our captains practices over the summer, where we found creative ways to work on improving as a team, while maintaining socially distance,” Pagliaro said. “We are very lucky to have such a great group of girls who are so positive and dedicated to the team.”

Gerbasi said that as captains, it’s their job to push the team to extents that they didn’t even think were possible.

“On the field, we push the girls to work as hard as they can and improve in their own ways,” Gerbasi said. “However, aside from the physical part, I think it’s very important to remind the girls why they are here. This year clearly poses many challenges, but we can’t dwell on the bad, instead we need to take the positives and turn them into motivation. Yes, it’s unfortunate we have to play with masks, and can’t have our parents at away games, but myself and Ava are constantly reminding the girls of the positive. That is, we got a season, so now we must work as hard as possible to make this the best season in Lakeland girls soccer history. I am so blessed to be able to lead such a great group of talented girls with one of my best friends, and can’t wait to show everyone what we are capable of.”

Author’s Note: After this story was completed, senior goalkeeper Sarah Pinkowsky, was added as the Hornets’ third captain.