Tags Posts tagged with "Clare O’Connor"

Clare O’Connor

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Corinne Scannell reaches for possession on the draw. Photo by Bill Landon
Sophia Knapp moves the ball up the field. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

The seed of there being a Port Jefferson girls’ lacrosse team was planted by former athletic director Deb Ferry and has began to grow with current leader Danielle Turner. According to head coach Allie Franklin, three seniors, who have been playing the sport since they were little, were the catalyst for this new varsity team.

What’s impressive about the Royals, who are among five teams in Class D, is that they finished fourth this year, narrowly missing the postseason by one spot.

“You don’t see many [first-season] teams nowadays, so to know that you’re part of the very first team, it’s an accomplishment,” said senior Clare O’Connor, one of those three seniors who was also part of the two-time championship-winning soccer team. “And we do have some very strong players.”

Port Jefferson wrapped up its inaugural season on the road May 9 against division powerhouse Bayport-Blue Point. The Royals competed in Division III and, despite it being their first season, managed to win two games and narrowly lost another by a point.

After a nail-biting finish March 24 against Copiague, where they lost 14-13, the Royals breakthrough performance came six days later when they defeated McGann-Mercy, 18-7, at home to ink the first-ever varsity lacrosse victory. From there, they faced the top teams in the division, but notched a second win May 1, a 13-9 win over visiting Hampton Bays.

Clare O’Connor reaches for a pass. Photo by Bill Landon

For freshman Sophia Knapp, who was called up to be a part of the team, it’s an honor to be starting out her high school career with a new team.

“[I was so excited] when I found out I was going to be able to play with people that I played with in PAL,” Knapp said. “I was nervous coming into the actual game, but once I got out there I felt that I was at home again, so it’s very special for me to be part of this team.”

The significance of the history-making season showcased this year wasn’t’ lost on Alexa Wakefield, another senior who helped kickstart the program.

“It means a lot honestly — we started with the PAL teams and we all stuck with it,” she said. “And all of the younger girls are getting a lot better so in the next few years we’ll have a solid team and I’m very excited about that.”

Franklin said she’s encouraged by her younger players, and with the prospect of a dedicated goalkeeper — something they didn’t have this season.

“I think the big piece next year is that we’ll have someone who’s a true goalie,” she said. “This year we had four field players stepping into that role rotating through and that was difficult for us, but next year [we’ll have] somebody who has been in the pads, and that’s their true position. That will help us tremendously.”

Alexa Wakefield defends. Photo by Bill Landon

Besides her, the final senior, Corinne Scannell, is looking forward to seeing what eighth-grader Katelynn Johnston can do.

“She’s just good,” she said. “I can see her being the next leader of our program.”

Scannell, already a three-sport athlete already playing on the state championship-winning soccer team and history-making Long Island championship basketball team, continues to make history with the school.

“We’ve been playing since we were little, so it’s definitely exciting to pioneer it,” she said. “I’d say that the best part of it is being on the field — all of the teams practice there — and it’s really cool to see all the younger girls playing,” she said. “Yeah, we had a few rough games this year, but we’re paving the way for them to succeed.”

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Royals will march down Main Street in parade Nov. 20

Port Jefferson's girls' soccer team is all smiles as they walk off the field winners. Photo by Andrew Wakefield

Trailing by a goal, the Port Jefferson girls’ soccer team found itself in a familiar situation. Although this time the stakes were a little bit higher.

The senior-laden Royals were competing for a second consecutive state title Nov. 13, and, down 1-0 to Geneseo at halftime, the girls admitted for once they were worried.

“The team was very nervous,” senior midfielder Brittany Fazin said. “We had a lot of pressure on our backs to win it again, especially with most of us being seniors. But we knew all the hard work paid off for this moment.”

Brittany Fazin slides for the ball. Photo by Andrew Wakefield
Brittany Fazin slides for the ball. Photo by Andrew Wakefield

The team was characterized by frequent comebacks throughout the course of a 31-3-1 two-year run. So at halftime, the team came together to figure out the solution to its problem.

“At halftime, we all spoke up, got on each other, calmed each other down and told each other that this is our game,” Fazin said. “We were playing down to their level, and not playing our game.”

That’s when Jillian Colucci — the team’s spark plug — did her thing.

First, her longtime teammate, senior forward Clare O’Connor, came close to tying the game with a strike over the crossbar 10 minutes in. Two minutes later, she found an opening and passed to Colucci, who scored the equalizer.

“Once that one goal came, that was all they needed,” Port Jefferson head coach Michele Aponte said. “It fueled their fire. It motivated them.”

Port Jefferson kept pressing for the go-ahead goal, and with 24:26 left to play, Fazin scored what would become the state title clincher.

“My goal that put us in the lead felt incredible,” Fazin said. “I beat out two girls down the middle, I took a shot from the 18-yard line and it went into the bottom right corner.”

Mikayla Yannucci battles for the ball. Photo by Andrew Wakefield
Mikayla Yannucci battles for the ball. Photo by Andrew Wakefield

While heading to goal, she said she remembered the mistakes the team had made throughout the course of the first 40 minutes in the back of her mind, to make sure she executed.

“As I was dribbling, I kept repeating ‘get over the ball, get over the ball,’” she said. “Most of our shots skyrocketed over the net, and I knew if I got my shot low and on target, I would have a better chance.”

She put the team to the lead, but got the Royals some breathing room when she scored three minutes later on a strike from 35 yards out, assisted by Colucci, and finished the game with a hat trick goal from the 25-yard line to cap a 4-1 Royals victory.

“I was just having an amazing time playing the sport that I love,” Fazin said. “I’m so glad we got to end it this way.”

Colucci said she hopes other Port Jefferson athletes will continue to take the program on its positive trajectory.

“It was hard not to be nervous with the added pressure after last season, but we focused on taking it one game at a time and we were so pumped to know we had one more opportunity to step out on the field together again in the finals,” the senior forward said. “Looking back on previous seasons and games, going down a goal was not an unfamiliar situation for us. We just knew it was time to shake off the nerves, settle down and work together. I hope we can inspire the players behind us, and the program continues to have this kind of success for many years to come.”

The Port Jefferson girls' soccer team topped Geneseo, 4-1, for the program's second consecutive state title. Photo by Andrew Wakefield
The Port Jefferson girls’ soccer team topped Geneseo, 4-1, for the program’s second consecutive state title. Photo by Andrew Wakefield

Fazin was named most outstanding player in the playoffs, and junior goalkeeper Brianna Scarda was named outstanding goalkeeper.

“Ending with a state title was surreal, but to be named an outstanding player made it a moment I will never forget,” Fazin said. “Most people can’t even say they have one state title, and the fact that I get to say I have two is incredible.”

Colucci said to be able to take home the title with nine other seniors in their final season was icing on the cake for her high school career.

“We are just so lucky to be able to do all of this together — who knew this is how our soccer journeys would end when we started playing intramural soccer at 4 years old?” she said. “It has without a doubt been an incredible journey, and making history just tops it off. It doesn’t get any better than sharing this success with this particular group of girls doing what we love and having fun. It’s truly unforgettable.”

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History might be repeating itself. The Port Jefferson girls’ soccer team is taking another trip upstate.

After a 3-0 Class C regional final win over Haldane Nov. 5 for the team’s third straight title, the Royals are back in the state semifinals for the third consecutive year, and are looking for back-to-back state championships.

Right out of the gate, Port Jefferson was able to assert itself as the more physical team, but Haldane’s defense kept the Royals at bay for the first 14 minutes of the game.

Senior midfielder Brittany Fazin scored the opening goal with 25:04 remaining in the first half after beating two defenders and the Haldane keeper one-on-one. With 9:09 left before halftime, senior forward Jillian Colucci added a goal off a corner kick from senior forward Clare O’Connor.

Senior forward Grace Swords added the final goal of the game from 18 yards out off an assist from senior midfielder Amelia Zamek 31 seconds into the second half.

The back line of seniors Kaitlin Connolly, Corinne Scannell, Alexa Wakefield and Camryn Ward had another strong showing, along with junior goalkeeper Brianna Scarda, who made six saves, for the team’s third straight shutout and sixth of the season.

Port Jefferson (15-1-1) will compete against Little Falls in the Class C semifinals Nov. 12 at 5:30 p.m. at Cortland High School.

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Grace Swords flies over the Center Moriches goalkeeper after taking a shot. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

It seems nothing can stop Jillian Colucci.

The Port Jefferson girls’ soccer team’s senior forward was double-teamed most of the way, but continued to power past defenders, scoring four goals to lead the Royals to a 6-2 win over Center Moriches Sept. 13.

Jillian Colucci fights for possession of the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Jillian Colucci fights for possession of the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

A 1-0 deficit didn’t stop the team either.

After senior forward Clare O’Connor’s throw-in reached classmate Brittany Fazin, the midfielder tapped the ball to Colucci, who raced ahead of the pack and knocked the ball into the left corner to tie the game. After she blocked a pass in the middle six minutes later, Colucci ran to the top of the box, where she tapped in another pass to give the Royals the lead. Her hat trick goal came minutes later, when after racing alongside Fazin, she took a pass at the 20-yard line, again beat out the defense and found the back of the net for a 3-1 advantage heading into the halftime break.

“They don’t give up,” Port Jefferson head coach Allyson Wolff said of her Royals. “We were down 1-0 and I think that sparked them to pull together and play like a team. It makes them play harder. That’s what I love to see.”

Fazin was next to light up the scoreboard. She extended the lead at the 33:46 mark by beating a double-team.

“I missed so many in the beginning, and it was scary, so when I saw Clare [O’Connor] had the ball, I made a run wide and knew it wasn’t going to me, so I took a step back and let the girl head the ball in front of me,” she said. “I looked for a space between the two defenders ahead of me, I settled it down, tapped it and looked right to the corner.”

Clare O’Connor dribbles downfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Clare O’Connor dribbles downfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Royals have a cohesive unit, thanks in large part to returning all but one senior from the 2015 roster. Their ground game and communication are what help the team shine.

Colucci said the team also shows poise, even in tough situations.

“In the past we’ve come back a lot during games,” she said. “We don’t let it get in our heads — even when the game got physical — we just do what we do, which is possess the ball, connect and communicate.”

Possessing the ball aided the Royals in wearing down the Red Devils.

“We passed it on the ground and kept playing back instead of going forward so much,” Fazin said. “We possessed and waited for the right moment to go forward, and that definitely tired out the other team.”

Mikayla Yannucci heads the ball out of Port Jefferson’s zone. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Mikayla Yannucci heads the ball out of Port Jefferson’s zone. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Colucci scored her fourth goal of the game on a penalty kick. The Royals put away their sixth goal when they were awarded a corner kick and Katie Connolly was in front this time to make it 6-2.

With the win, Port Jefferson extended its winning streak to three games. The team travels to McGann-Mercy on Sept. 15 for a 4:30 p.m. matchup.

Wolff said she is pleased with what she has seen in her defending state-champions so far, and is looking forward to seeing what else the girls can do.

“This is probably one of our toughest opponents in the league and I thought that they played really well together; I’m proud of them,” Wolff said of her Class C team going up against a B team in Center Moriches. “The bond, the leadership — they all lead in their own way.”

Colucci said she is confident in her team’s ability to get the job done again this year.

“We’re building up our momentum with each game we play, and we’re getting better and better with communication and possession,” she said. “Our goal is to get back to states, so we’re just going to keep working hard.”

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Port Jefferson junior forward and co-captain Jillian Colucci shoots and scores through a crowd of Babylon defenders. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

After dropping the first two non-league games of the season, the Port Jefferson girls’ soccer team is back on track after topping Babylon Monday, 4-1, to continue a three-game League VII winning streak.

“Coming from being Class B and beating them in the Suffolk County Championship last year and now dropping down to Class C, it is definitely a big win for us today,” head coach Allyson Wolff said. “In the beginning of the season we played some tough opponents in Ward Melville and Center Moriches and we felt like the girls weren’t talking or communicating, so we worked on that and our passing in practice, keeping it simple and playing to feet — not just trying to kick the ball — so I feel we definitely stepped it up for this game.”

Port Jefferson sophomore midfielder Hailey Reale feels pressure from a Babylon defender as she maintains possession of the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Port Jefferson sophomore midfielder Hailey Reale feels pressure from a Babylon defender as she maintains possession of the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Port Jefferson sophomore goalkeeper Brianna Scarda made several big saves to keep the score 0-0, and the Royals had some chances at a goal early on, but Babylon’s defense came up with the stops.

Although opening the second half still in a stalemate, the Royals were quick to make up for lost time after speaking with Wolff at halftime.

“At halftime I told them that they weren’t playing our game,” Wolff said. “Babylon was beating us to the ball and stepping in front of us, and I told them that if we were going to let them do this, then we’re not going to win. I told them that they have to want it and it has to come from their heart, and told them that the other team looked like it wanted it more than they did, and I think that got them angry and sparked something.”

Port Jefferson junior midfielder and forward Clare O'Connor sends the ball into play during the Royals' 4-1 win over Babylon on Sept. 21. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Port Jefferson junior midfielder and forward Clare O’Connor sends the ball into play during the Royals’ 4-1 win over Babylon on Sept. 21. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Less than four minutes in, junior forward Jillian Colucci beat out the Babylon goalkeeper, who came out of the box to try and make a save, and shot the ball into the right side of an empty net off an assist from junior midfielder and forward Clare O’Connor, for the 1-0 lead.

“I knew I was going to get the pass, so I started running and felt the defense on my back, but I was able to touch it past the goalie and did whatever I could do to continue to touch it into the net,” she said.

At the 29:48 mark, after O’Connor sent the ball into play, Colucci attempted a goal through a swarm of defenders, and junior midfielder and forward Brittany Fazin put out her foot to stop the rebound and sent the ball into the right corner for a 2-0 advantage.

Off another assist from O’Connor, who crossed the ball into the box after a foul call, Colucci scored her second goal with a straight shot up the middle through traffic and past the keeper. She followed it up with her hat trick goal when, again, the Babylon goalkeeper came out of the box, leaving the net empty.

“The game was intense, and it always is against Babylon,” Colucci said. “Since we’re only playing them once this season we knew we had to step up and play them as hard as we could and keep our record strong against them.”

Port Jefferson junior midfielder and forward Brittany Fazin kicks the ball behind her to keep the pressure in Babylon's zone. Colucci would grab the pass and score on the play, and the Royals went on to beat the Panthers, 4-1, on Sept. 21. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Port Jefferson junior midfielder and forward Brittany Fazin kicks the ball behind her to keep the pressure in Babylon’s zone. Colucci would grab the pass and score on the play, and the Royals went on to beat the Panthers, 4-1, on Sept. 21. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Scarda made a save, her last of 18 on the afternoon, exactly three minutes after the Royals’ final goal to preserve the clean sheet for the time being, but after a goalie change, senior Noelle Zimmermann gave up a goal with 5:07 left to play, to bring the final score to 4-1.

“We really, really earned it,” Scarda said of the win. “All the nerves that we had — being scared about the game, we took and converted into our skill and our playing. We got our heads in the zone every chance we got and we trained very, very hard leading up to this game.”

What helped the Royals was that the team was playing to feet instead of chasing the ball in the air like they did in the first half.

“We don’t have good control of it [in the air], and when they play things to feet it’s pretty, it’s beautiful and it makes things happen,” assistant coach Michele Aponte said. “They’re a stronger group of girls together, especially getting to the level they got to last year. They want it.”

Port Jefferson travels to McGann-Mercy Friday, for a 4:30 p.m. game. The Royals have topped the Monarchs all six times they faced their opponent in the last three seasons.