All Emily Diaz had to do was put her body on it.
As senior center midfielder Kristen Prevosto sent in a corner kick for the Newfield girls’ soccer team, Diaz, a junior forward, was in the right place at the right time.
“When I was standing in front of the net — I’m always on the goalie — I asked Emily [Caso] to go on the goalie so I could get the ball,” Diaz said of her game-winning goal. “I saw it, and thought, ‘this is me.’ So out of the air I had nowhere else to go with it then to push it with my stomach. It went in, and I was psyched.”
With a 2-1 victory over Smithtown East Sept. 26, the Wolverines are on track to make the postseason for the first time in over a decade. Although compiling two ties over a nine-game span, the Wolverines bested reigning state champion Port Jefferson, 3-2, in their season opener, proving they’re talented enough to hang with the best. They’re also learning from their mistakes.
Newfield tied Smithtown East, 1-1, the first time the two teams saw each other Sept. 7. This time around, the girls were hungry to continue their winning ways, with the team’s third straight win, and now have a record of 5-1-2 in League III.
“It’s one of the strongest starts we’ve gotten off to, ,” Newfield head coach Domenik Veraldi said. “But we just think about winning this game, winning the first half, winning the first 10 minutes and winning the ball. We compartmentalize into small, small goals and eventually when we accomplish those small goals it turns into what we want in the end.”
And Newfield did all of those things.
First, the team won the 50/50 balls, and despite Smithtown East senior midfielder Brianna Donato getting back-to-backs shots on goal, Newfield’s junior goalkeeper Alexis Saladino made save after save.
“We try to keep the ball in the offensive third, and when we can do that, it takes the pressure off of our defense,” Veraldi said. “The only way to keep it up there is to win those air balls; work to every play. We train them to win — not the 50/50 balls — but our balls.”
Newfield junior defender Taylor Regensburger, who was soft but tactical with her foot skills, curled a corer kick into the goal to open the scoring for the Wolverines three minutes into the second half.
Three minutes later, Donato knocked the ball to the floor as she dribbled toward the box, and sent it into the left corner to tie the game for the Bulls.
The two teams traded possession throughout much of the game, but the Wolverines clawed their way up top, making strategic passes and remaining aggressive until, and even after Prevosto set up the game-winning shot.
“It’s awesome to see a team come together as well as we have,” Prevosto said. “I knew we needed to score, so I set the ball up, concentrated on where I was going to put it, and placed it.”
She said her team has improved tremendously from her eighth-grade year to now, and Diaz agreed.
“We have been playing together for a long time,” Diaz said. “We were a young team that continued to grow together. As the season progresses we build on that chemistry day after day, we’re working hard in practice, we’re all really good friends and it’s fun to be on the field, and that’s why we keep winning.”
What she liked about her team’s style, compared to Smithtown East’s, is that the Wolverines use more combinations, whereas the Bulls kicked and ran.
Chemistry plays a part in the team’s ability to transition the ball up and down the field. Veraldi said because of this, his group is one to be reckoned with.
“When they play with that much heart and that kind of work ethic, we’re a dangerous team,” he said.
And Diaz anticipates for her team to take it all the way.
“We have to keep our heads up and keep fighting back for the win,” she said. “I have high expectations for us and we’re achieving them every game. We take it game by game by game, and we’re on the road to playoffs.”