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Kerri Liucci

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Arianna Barbieri strikes the ball past a William Floyd defender. Photo by John Dielman

Ward Melville’s soccer team has an advantage most teams don’t: the connection between twin sisters Kerri and Nicole Liucci.

On their senior night, in a 3-0 win over William Floyd Oct. 16, the two scored a goal apiece, and assisted on each other’s tallies to help the Patriots (10-3-2, 9-2-2 League I) power through.

“We have twin telepathy,” Kerri Liucci said. “We work hard together.”

Nicole Liucci passes the ball downfield. Photo by John Dielman

Nicole Liucci was first to find the back of the net after her twin received a pass from the corner, and moved the ball front and center in the box. With a mid-air knock-in, the Liucci sisters made it an early 1-0 advantage.

“We have a really strong bond and we know where each other is at all times,” Nicole Liucci said. “I kept saying to myself, ‘I need to get the ball in the net.’ My sister passed it to me and I kicked it right in.”

More than 25 minutes passed before the Patriots propelled the ball into the net a second time. On a strike from 30 yards out, midfielder Arianna Barbieri found the far left corner, which was a surprise even to her.

“I decided to just wing it,” she said. “Watching it sail over and into the net felt really good. We were pushing the ball as hard as we could trying to score early and shut them down.”

Ward Melville’s defense held down the Colonials in the second half, despite losing returning All-County defender Kayla Winicki to a torn ACL in the first game of the season against Northport. Liv Halvorsen has stepped up to fill her place on the back line, knocking away chances and battling for crucial possession, which she’ll need to continue if Ward Melville wants to win a League I title.

“We had some girls step in and take over and they’ve been great and adjusted well,” Ward Melville head coach John Diehl said. “We’re gelling now and coming together in different ways.”

Kerri Liucci moves the ball across midfield. Photo by John Dielman

Kerri Liucci put the game out of reach with 12 minutes left when she sent the ball into the corner from close range. She had a chance at a goal seconds earlier, when she pushed the ball past a fallen William Floyd goalkeeper, but a defender batted it away. She said she was overjoyed to finally get on the stat sheet.

“I really wanted to score on senior night,” she said. “I tried, put all my effort behind the ball and it went in, and it felt amazing because I was working hard the whole game to get a goal. It was rewarding.”

The three seniors that scored on Ward Melville’s senior night are the three longest tenured members of the team.

“The girls get so excited for this day,” Diehl said of his 14 upperclassmen. “Their energy is high, their spirits are high and they ended up doing well. They’ve endured a lot and they’re a nice group of seniors. I love seeing them happy — it makes me smile.”

After what could potentially have been the last home game for Ward Melville this season, the Patriots soaked it in as the bench cleared in celebration of a successful shutout. Ward Melville travels to Brentwood for the final game of the regular season Oct. 18. If the Patriots come away with a win, they’ll also grab a piece of the League I title for the first time in years.

“Brentwood is always a strong team,” Diehl said. “It’s always tough against Brentwood at their house, too, because they play on grass and we’re not used to that surface, but heading into this last week I like where we are.”

Ward Melville's Kerri Liucci is congratulated by her teammates after scoring the first goal of the game. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Ward Melville girls’ soccer team faced some adversity late in the first half of their season-opening game, but the Patriots pushed through the wind, kept their heads up and got down to business.

Junior striker Kerri Liucci scored a hat trick to propel Ward Melville’s 4-1 win over Smithtown West in nonleague action Sept. 5.

“It’s the first time we’ve scored a hat trick in a while,” Ward Melville head coach John Diehl said. “We got a bit rattled, but I spoke to them at halftime about keeping their composure, getting their minds in the right place and winning the 50/50 balls in the middle and establishing our game we had in the first 20 minutes, and I think we did that.”

Smithtown West's Gabby Lorefice sends the ball into play. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Smithtown West’s Gabby Lorefice sends the ball into play. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Less than three minutes into the game, Liucci scored her first goal after some back and forth in front of the net off a corner kick allowed her to knock the ball into an open right side of the net.

“I was trying to find the ball; trying to get a hit off of it,” she said. “Smithtown West went to go clear it, but I got my body in front of it.”

She tallied her second goal minutes later, when Smithtown West’s goalkeeper Gabby Lorefice came out of the box to stop the ball.

“I kept my composure, and let myself play how I usually do,” she said.

With three minutes left in the first half, Smithtown West senior forward Alicia Daoust scored off a corner kick, and the Bulls’ bench erupted in excitement, which gave them a boost heading into halftime.

Both teams came out ready to fight in the second half, and Lorefice made some of her crucial nine saves on the evening in the final 40 minutes to keep her team in the game.

“We came out a bit flat and it cost us in the beginning — they made us pay for it,” Smithtown West head coach Rob Schretzmayer said. “They pressed us. They’re a good team, and just very aggressive. We were on our heels, and we were chasing a little at the end. Credit to [Ward Melville] — with the wind on their back—they caught us again.”

With 17:49 left to play, a high kick bounced over Lorefice’s head, and Liucci scored her third goal of the game. Junior back Victoria Vitale added insurance with just under 10 minutes left.

Ward Melville's Rose Lopez sends the ball downfield while Smithtown West opponents race to block the pass. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Ward Melville’s Rose Lopez sends the ball downfield while Smithtown West opponents race to block the pass. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Patriots, are loaded with experienced upperclassmen on their roster, an advantage not lost on one of the team’s leaders.

“Our fitness is really high, we work really well together and have a really good relationship with each other that I think translates onto the field,” senior center back Megan Raftery said. “I’ve been playing with some of these girls since kindergarten, so we know each other’s strengths and we know how to build on each other’s strengths.”

That chemistry showed in connected passes and the girls getting open for one another, according to Liucci, who said the team is looking to make a big statement this season.

“We’ll keep working hard in practice and pushing one another,” she said.

Despite the 4-1 victory, Diehl still saw room for his team to improve.

“With the experience we have and the attitude of the girls, this is a special group,” he said. “This group wants to play and want to do the best. They’re getting over that mental hump and gaining confidence, and I think they’re looking good. Given the quality of the opponent — Smithtown West one of the top teams in the county — gives us a better understanding of what level we can play at, and gives them the confidence to believe in themselves. We can play really good soccer.”