By Joseph Staszewski
Long Island City girls’ soccer practices at the school involve avoiding cones, but have nothing to do with the players dribbling through and around them.
“Part of the field where the carpet comes up, it’s totally ripped,” Bulldogs Coach Mark Skorupski said. “It’s coned off and we are not allowed in that area.”
The team, which has won the PSAL Queens A-V title the last three seasons, reached its first quarterfinals a year ago and will try to better that without a full home field. They practice on small patches as the school waits on the old Astroturf field to be officially deemed unplayable so they can begin renovations, according to Skorupski. Until then the Bulldogs will play home games at St. Michael’s Playground in Astoria, a five-minute drive from the school.
“Something is missing this season,” the coach said. “We always look forward to the home games. Not having it is a huge disappointment.”
Their home field isn’t the only thing Long Island City is missing this season. It has suffered a rash of injuries in the early season. Skorupski said he has lost more kids in the last three weeks than he did in three previous years. He did not think the practice conditions had anything to do with it.
The Bulldogs are playing without four starters because of ankle injuries, including junior midfielder Alison Dowdle and her 23 goals from a year ago. She is expected back this week after hurting herself in a win over Forest Hills last week. Senior Stephanie Escala is on crutches. Stopper Diana Rodriguez is out, and starting goalie Kaitlyn Kripfgan fractured her ankle at tryouts and is lost for the rest of the year.
“I just need them to come back,” senior forward Geraldine Huisa said. “This is my last year. I want to do better.”
Long Island City has already seen its 23-game league winning streak end 3-2 to Townsend Harris last Thursday and is off to a 3-1 start overall. Huisa was emotional after the loss to the Hawks and Dowdle was fighting back tears as she felt helpless on the sidelines. A depleted defense watched Townsend Harris star Olivia McFadden tally a hat trick. Long Island City bounced back with a 9-0 win over Thomas Edison.
“If we lose players, we have to all step up,” Huisa said. “We can’t lose our division this year.”
Skorupski said it hurt him to watch his players’ outpouring of emotion after the loss. He understands how tough the start of this season has been on them from no home field to all the injuries.
“You have to deal with whatever you got,” Skorupski said. “I’m definitely looking forward to next season and a new field.”