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Grace Swords

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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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Although it may sound cliché, the Port Jefferson girls’ soccer team is more than a team — the Royals really are a family.

The current group of seniors has seen very little change over the last three years. They’ve formed a cohesive unit, bought into coaches Allyson Wolff and Michele Aponte’s system and specialize in doing the little things necessary to win. Having lost just two seniors to graduation in the last two years, they’ve created a unique atmosphere that’s helped them see state playoff action each of the last two seasons. Now the defending state champions are hungry for their second consecutive title.

On Oct. 28, the Royals took the next step toward achieving that goal. After going three straight seasons without a League VII loss, and losing just once the season before that, Port Jefferson claimed another county crown with an 8-0 blanking of Southold.

“In my opinion that was the best game we’ve ever played,” said senior co-captain Jillian Colucci, who netted a hat trick and two assists on five shots. “Our possession was on point and our connections were there.”

“When we played them earlier in the season they were really tight on defense, so we practiced pulling back our defense and spreading them out to have more room with the forwards.”

—Grace Swords

The Royals were relentless — producing 39 shots and eight corner kicks. Clearly Port Jefferson learned from their 1-1 tie to Southold back on Sept. 23.

“When we played them earlier in the season they were really tight on defense, so we practiced pulling back our defense and spreading them out to have more room with the forwards,” said senior Grace Swords, who scored once and assisted twice in the win.

Colucci was first to light up the scoreboard after her teammates made several attempts to knock one in past Southold’s junior goalkeeper Hayley Brigham. She scored on a through ball from senior defensive midfielder Mikayla Yanucci.

“She always finds the ball no matter where I kick it,” Yanucci said of her teammate. “I knew if I passed it in between players she’d go from wherever she was to get to it. She found the ball, and she finished it. That was a great way to start off the game.”

Once Port Jefferson gets the ball rolling it’s difficult to slow down their momentum.

Two minutes after scoring, Colucci added another goal off an assist from senior forward Brittany Fazin.

“We needed to possess the ball,” Fazin said. “We knew not to force it. They’re bigger than us and they’re better in the air, so we tried to keep it down on the ground, keep it low and move the ball around until we scored.”

Fazin moved to Port Jefferson last year, but she fit right in quickly with the other forwards. She was second on the Royals in goals in both of her seasons with the team.

“Playing together for the last few years helped us grow a connection with each other,” Fazin said. “We know where each other is going to go and where to pass to each other; who plays best where. Coming to Port Jefferson I never expected any of this. Being this successful with a team is something I never thought I’d experience in my life.”

“Playing together for the last few years helped us grow a connection with each other. We know where each other is going to go and where to pass to each other; who plays best where.”

—Brittany Fazin

Senior Alexa Wakefield and eighth-grader Hailey Hearney also added goals, before Colucci finished the game with her hat trick goal. While she receives the spotlight for scoring, Colucci said the team atmosphere and her surrounding Royals play major roles in her success.

“I’m playing with 10 other people I grew up playing with,” she said. “We have our own quirky things — our cheers and song for each season. It’s crazy that it’s our last ride, but we’re making memories to last a lifetime.”

Because of their bond and level of play to this point, Yannucci said if the team continues to play like it did in the county title game, they’re going to be back upstate this month. The defense put together another solid showing from the back line, led by senior co-captain Corinne Scannell. Junior goalkeeper Brianna Scarda barely saw any action, and neither did sophomore goalkeeper Sarah Hull in the game against Southold. Each had to make just one save. Despite the score, Brigham made 27 saves for Southold.

Port Jefferson will play in the Long Island championship game Nov. 5. The Royals do not know who their Nassau opponent will be, and the time and place has yet to be announced.

“We’re going to go out hard and never give up, because that’s how Port Jeff plays — we never give up,” Yanucci said, looking ahead to the next round. “These girls are literally my family and I’m going to be so upset when this is all over. I’m just so happy to share this experience with all of my best friends.”

Swords echoed her teammate’s sentiments.

“The pressure is on, but we are a good team,” she said. “This is our final year playing together and if we just keep our heads in the game and put everything we have into it, we’ll go far. This is all so surreal. We’ve become a family over the last three years and to finish it off with a state title is all we want.”

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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.”