The first round of playoffs is a hurdle the Mount Sinai girls’ soccer team hasn’t been able to jump over in some time.
The Mustangs fell to No. 3 Elwood-John Glenn 1-0 last season, and No. 1 Sayville the year prior, 3-0, and despite an 8-3-1 record, didn’t see the postseason the year before that.
This time, the No. 4-seeded senior-laden squad, and more specifically, its three co-captains, had other ideas, and blanked No. 5 visiting Comsewogue 3-0 in the Class A first round Oct. 25.
“We’ve worked so hard to accomplish this goal,” senior outside midfielder Missy Carpenito said. “We finally made it.”
The co-captain was first to light up the scoreboard when she stuffed in a rebound off Comsewogue senior goalkeeper Erica Hickey’s save with just over 17 minutes left in the first half. Sophomore striker Gabby Sartori assisted on the play.
“I saw the ball coming across with the rebound from the goalie, and coach [Courtney Leonard] says to always make that rebound, so I went for it,” Carpenito said.
Leading 1-0 at half time, Mount Sinai’s head coach gave her team the reality check it needed.
“Tighten it up,” Leonard told her girls. “This is possibly the sloppiest game we played all season. They’re winning practically every 50/50 ball. Was that not our goal?”
Although the Mustangs still struggled to win possession of loose balls, senior sweeper Antonia Calamas had an opportunity to extend the lead, and made it count.
At the 22:33 mark, senior forward Leah Nonnenmann was knocked down heading to goal, and Calamas came up to take the free kick.
“I don’t get to score a lot, so that was really exciting for me,” the co-captain said. “Most of us have been playing together since last season. A lot of us play on travel too, so we’ve been working together for so long that playing with each other just comes naturally to us.”
And with Calamas’ goal, the Mustangs were up by two.
Six minutes later, Calamas showed her strength on the defensive side of the ball. With the Warriors knowing they didn’t have much time to level the score, the team made offensive pushes that forced Mount Sinai off its game. As junior goalkeeper Caiya Schuster came out of the box after making a save, Comsewogue found itself with the ball again, and tried to capitalize on the miscue. That’s when Calamas came in to knock the ball out of bounds to preserve the shutout.
“They were playing with three strikers up top, and we’re not used to that, so I think that’s why we had a couple of breakdowns,” Calamas said. “But I wasn’t worried because I knew we could handle it. Even if it does get crazy sometimes, I stay calm.”
With less than 10 minutes left to play, senior defender Victoria Johnson made a similar play, where she blocked a shot with Schuster out of the net.
“We had some scary mishaps on defense that we were able to clear, and that saved us,” Leonard said. “We’ve been covering for each other all year and I think the girls did a great job of it today. If one man is literally down on the floor, the next one is clearing the ball out and helping them up. We played as a cohesive unit.”
Her team also finished when it needed to finish, and senior forward Casey Schmitt put the game out of reach when she scored off another Comsewogue rebound. After Carpenito raced up top and took a shot from the far post, the co-captain caught the rebounded save on the other side, and made contact to knock the ball in.
Mount Sinai’s head coach was proud to see her players fight through the first round, but wasn’t shy when saying her team needs to get back into form.
“It’s not our best performance so far,’’ she said. “I would’ve liked to see much more of a possession game; I would’ve liked to see us use the outsides more, but in the end, we got it done.”
She’s hoping the girls will continue to grow, and thinks that can be done when Mount Sinai goes up against No. 1 Islip Oct. 28 at 2:30 p.m.
“Islip is obviously a great team and a great program, but eventually you’re going to face a great team and a great program, so we’re looking forward to it,” Leonard said. “We’re welcoming the challenge.”
The Mustangs have already seen Islip twice this season. The first time, a 4-1 loss on Sept. 10, and the second, a 3-1 defeat on Sept. 29.
Despite the outcome, Sartori said her team will be ready to fight. She said if any team can continue to overcome obstacles, it’s this one.
“I’ve been waiting four long years for this,” she said of making the postseason. “Facing Islip is going to be hard, but I think we will rise to the challenge and make our mark.”