The final spring soccer season in the PSAL will be a year of reckoning for the girls of Benjamin Cardozo.
Ever since 2006, when they followed a middling season with a 9-2 record, the Lady Judges have played bridesmaid to Bayside’s bride. The Commodores went 11-0 that year, conceding only five league goals all regular season long; they followed that mark with two more undefeated seasons, while Cardozo “settled” for a pair of nine-win years and built up a collection of silver medals.
On May 4, 2007, Cardozo did succeed in tying Bayside, 1-1. It was the only time the Commodores did not win over the course of three undefeated seasons.
This year might be Cardozo’s big chance to turn the tables. Midfielder Paola Ramos, who netted 11 goals and 11 assists in 10 games last year as a junior, is primed to peak. Francesca Shin, scorer of 13 goals last year, is the only Lady Judges attacker to leave due to graduation. (Ramos’ superior shot-to-goal ratio implies that she might very successfully fill the gap.) And this season’s team is teeming with promising sophomores and juniors, suggesting both off-season improvement and the likelihood of similar success next fall.
Problem is, Bayside hasn’t exactly weakened. While the Commodores lose graduate Zoe Margulies’ 10 goals, they retain senior superstar Despina Psomopoulos, who has made a mark on the program each of her first three seasons. As a freshman, she scored 22 goals; as a sophomore, she scored 23; as a junior, she scored 18 in fewer games — and while taking 25 percent fewer shots. She will be at the center of Bayside’s quest for a fourth consecutive undefeated season.
Like in any one-sided rivalry, it is obvious that while Cardozo’s sights are set on Bayside, Bayside’s are set elsewhere. Staten Island, to be specific: McKee Vocational represents the Commodores’ own great white whale.
In 2006, the first year of Bayside’s dominance, the Commodores lost to McKee, 3-2, in the city semifinals. In 2007, they lost to McKee, 2-0, in the city championship. In 2008, well, you guessed it: McKee was the culprit once more, taking down the Baysiders by a 3-0 margin in the city semifinals.
Both Queens teams, then, have mountains to climb during the watershed 2009 season, notable because it is the last one in the foreseeable future to take place in the spring. The PSAL OK’d the move to the fall after being threatened with a lawsuit from the New York Civil Liberties Union, which contended that playing in the spring (while the boys — and the Catholic girls, for that matter — play in the fall) put girls at an unfair disadvantage with respect to universities’ recruiting schedules and the awkward timing of girls’ travel soccer seasons.
Cardozo started its 2009 campaign by facing Thomas Edison on March 23. The Inventors travel to Bayside to open the Commodores’ season on March 25.