By Dylan Butler
Five new teams and a new division are the difference from 1999 in PSAL girls' soccer. Cardozo, Arts & Business, Campus Magnet, Franklin K. Lane and Jamaica all completed a non-league schedule last year and are all beginning their first official season.
The favorites in Queens this season? Townsend Harris appears to have the edge in Queens I, while Newtown, Bryant and Forest Hills should create a three-team race in Queens II. Cardozo and Jamaica look to be the top teams in Queens III.
Townsend Harris is the favorite coming into this season as the Hawks return a solid core of players. Back for Chris Hackney's team are junior midfielder Rosemary Ferraro, junior forward Talia Oberfield, senior midfielder Julia Meier and senior sweeper Theresa Plaza. The Hawks finished last season 14-3 and lost in the second round of the playoffs.
Leading the charge for Bayside is senior forward Hazel Alvarado, who scored 32 goals last season for the Commodores, who went 18-3 and lost to Bronx Science in the quarterfinals.
Heather Lawson, a junior center halfback and Maggie Kassimis, a left fullback are co-captains this year with Alvarado. Defense was the key last year, as the Commodores let up just 13 goals in 21 games. However, the team has struggled early, already allowing 11 goals in just four games.
“We're going to rely on our offensive power because the defense is not doing well in the early season,” said Bayside head coach Jerry Pannel. “We would be very happy if we made the playoffs again.”
The development of Irene Guizardo, a junior sweeper Pannel says “can be one of the best in the city” will be a major factor to whether Bayside gets back to the postseason.
Francis Lewis returns most of its team, with the exception of defender Sandra Zovich. Senior forward Karine Zuma and senior midfielder Luz Santizo should provide offensive punch, while head coach Larry Diamond hopes Victoria Litvinenko can shore up the defense for Lewis, who finished 6-4-2 last year.
Hillcrest (4-10), Flushing (6-7-3) and Beach Channel (0-12) all hope to be competitive in Queens I.
Newtown looks to have the slight edge over Forest Hills and Bryant, but, Forest Hills coach Bob Sprance says, for only one reason.
“Margaret Goclowska,” he said.
The Pioneers, 16-3-1 last year, return one of the top players in the PSAL in Goclowska, a senior midfielder. Last year Goclowska scored 21 goals before fracturing her right ankle near the end of the season. Without her Newtown couldn't muster enough offensive power and lost to Madison in the second round of the playoffs, 2-0.
The Pioneers, of course, are not a one-girl act. Also back is a strong supporting cast, highlighted by junior midfielder Abena Osei. Newcomers Angelica Martinez and Alba Carrasquero should also be strong for the Pioneers.
Head coach Ralph Montanaro likes his Bryant Owls, so much so that he thinks his young group “could develop into a Final Four type of team.”
But that would be a year away for the second-year coach. This season Montanaro hopes to improve on an impressive 10-3-1 season.
The strength of the team is its defense, led by sophomores Tanya Isdith, Maria Ramos, Melissa Lam and Diana Boterro. Up front, the Owls feature two sophomores, Viviana Andino and Claudia Arias and a freshman, Eleni Petropoulos, who has already scored three goals early in the season.
“We lost seven players from a decent team,” Montanaro said. “Eventually, I want to think of Bryant as a soccer powerhouse in Queens. Next year we have the potential to be very good.”
Forest Hills is without explosive scorer Paola Rojas, who scored 22 goals last season. A lack of firepower this year? Not a chance. Filling in quite nicely is junior center forward Ana Borges. In just seven games, Borges has found the back of the net 17 times for the Rangers, who are 5-0-2 in the early season.
Leading the charge in the midfield is senior Themis Feliciano while two newcomers, sisters Camila Barnes, a freshman midfielder, and senior Zakia Barnes, a senior sweeper, should also make a difference for Forest Hills, who finished 18-5-5 last year.
“Our of the seven games we played this year, we've been behind in five of them,” Sprance said. “It seems like we need a goal scored against us to wake us up, but we really never give up.”
Richmond Hill (5-14-4 last year), Far Rockaway (5-6-1 last year), Newcomers (6-10 last year) and Aviation (0-12) last year) round out the rest of Queens II.
With the exception of Van Buren, Queens III is a division made up exclusively of first-year teams. After a year of non-league competition, Cardozo, Campus Magnet, Jamaica, Franklin K. Lane and Arts & Business all begin their first official PSAL season.
Cardozo took no prisoners in its inaugural season, finishing 11-1, but because of the probationary season, it could not make the playoffs. The Judges, led by senior keeper Megan McDonnell – who played for the boys' team – expect to get to the postseason and can make an impact there.
Other keys for Cardozo are junior midfielder Kelly Kaso and senior stopper Sunny Tsang. Top new players include Patricia Sotirakis, Nicki Tzimas and sweeper Diana Thomas.
Jamaica is another new team that looks to be a contender in Queens III. Senior striker Roberthe Tondreau, senior defender Merline Joseph and senior midfielder Angelica Orozco return from a Beaver team that went 5-5-2 last season. In addition to the scoring of Tondreau and the defensive play of Joseph, Jamaica is depending on new goalkeeper Nicole Spence.
Van Buren went 7-3-1 last year and fell in the first round of the playoffs. Unfortunately for head coach Greg Fishman, the VeeBees lost seven seniors from that team. Two seniors and a sophomore lead the returning players for Van Buren, which moved from Queens I to the newly formed Queens III as senior forward Maritza Trujillo, senior keeper Rajkumarie Ramsawak and sophomore sweeper Melissa Arriaga should play well for the third year coach.
Campus Magnet (3-3-4 last year), Franklin K. Lane (4-54 last year) and Arts & Business (1-11 last year) round out Queens III.