St. Francis Prep falls to Firebirds in league opener

St. Francis Prep falls to Firebirds in league opener
Photo by Ken Maldonado
By John Tolis

St. Francis Prep girls’ soccer Coach John Jenkins isn’t keen on using an attacking style of play. The Terriers take a different and more defensive approach to the game as they try to compete in the top division of the CHSAA Nassau/Suffolk league, arguably the best in the area.

St. Francis Prep did its best to shut down Kellenberg, but a late Firebirds goal gave them a 2-1 win in both teams’ league opener at Fort Totten Sept. 11. The Terriers did a good job of clearing the ball out of danger in the back, but Jenkins was hoping for more.

“We know we can play defense, you see that and there’s not too many teams that can play defense,” Jenkins said. “I really think that they’re better than that and I really think they can play the way soccer is supposed to be played, instead of clearing it.”

Senior midfielder Alyssa Argento shares the same feelings as her coach. Just clearing the ball isn’t enough. The Terriers will need to work on turning their defense into offense and keeping the ball in their control more.

“We should maybe have a little bit more possession instead of just kicking it up,” Argento said. “We need to play more offense.”

SFP has a strong defensive unit led by junior and co-captain Tara Ferraris and goalie Samantha Cobotic. Ferraris believes the defense can improve, but is playing well despite the graduation of Aimée Kasmally and Gina Baglieri.

“We just need to work more together and communicate better,” Ferraris said. “Defensively we could use a little more work, but a big improvement from last year.”

The defense was put to the test against Kellenberg and it held strong for most of the afternoon and appeared ready to claim at least a 1-1 tie.

That was until Kellenberg’s midfielder, Brooke Salmon, scored the winner from just outside the box with less than two minutes remaining in the game. It came right after the Terriers had just gotten even minutes earlier when forward Sophia DeLeon scored on a free kick just outside from the right side of the box.

Kellenberg won the possession game in the first half, moving the ball smoothly and putting three shots on goal. The St. Francis defense was kept busy, but batted away every ball that was put in front of them. Autumn Brown was a force for SFP a center back during a scoreless first half.

Despite the loss, Jenkins feels optimistic going forward in a difficult league.

“We’re going to keep on improving, that’s all,” Jenkins said. “We’re in a league that’s got four teams who are all everything and we’d like to stay in this league to get better.”

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