By Joseph Staszewski
On a day when it was a struggle for Benjamin Cardozo to find the back of the net, even the one that made its way there didn’t come easy.
The corner kick from sophomore Eleni Spiratos into the box needed to be touched three times by Judges players before it was whistled a goal. Simone Gmuca headed the ball to the far post as Jane Merino charged forward. She directed it to the inside pole with her thigh and then kicked it past diving keeper Baily Falco for the game’s lone score in the 34th minute.
“They didn’t count it the first time,” Merino said. “I was like, ‘Yo, what happened?’ Nobody was calling it.”
It was enough for a 1-0 victory over visiting Bayside in PSAL Queens A girls’ soccer crossover game on Tuesday. The win keeps Cardozo unbeaten and on the top of its division.
“It’s really like a suspenseful moment because you are waiting and waiting and waiting,” Spiratos said. “That moment when we scored over there was pretty great.”
First-year head coach Patrick Frazer said Merino was just being smart after learning from experience that Spiratos is going to give you a chance to score. The sophomore already has six goals and five assists this season.
“She has been across that ball all season so we want to make sure we are always at that back post,” Frazer said.
The play was enough for the game’s only goal despite a plethora of chances for Cardozo (8-0-0), Offsides calls short circuited a few opportunities, shots went wide and the Bayside defense came up with a few stellar plays. Spiratos believes her team, a mix of mostly seniors and sophomores, needs to learn to be better composed in big games like this.
“We had a great amount of chances and we should have capitalized on most of them,” she said.
Bayside coach Maggie Kassimis was proud of the job her defense did against a talented Dozo squad. Falco was aggressive in net and made 16 saves. Senior defender Lenore Aponte consistently used her speed and smarts to outrun or run down offensive players sprinting for the goal for the Commodores (5-2-2).
“Her speed alone saved us a lot of times not just this game, but a lot of games,” Kassimis said. “Without her in the back it is a different story.”
Frazer, who previously taught at Richmond Hill and coached the JV girls’ soccer team at Wantagh, likes the script his club is writing. Cardozo has allowed just two goals all season. The girls have enjoyed his emphasis on improving their passing and conditioning since taking over for the retired Tim Demirayak. Midfielder Maria Lardas and sweeper Lara Morales have also been key cogs.
Wins over second place Francis Lewis, and now Bayside, have Cardozo setting its sight on a special regular season with five games remaining.
“We are hungry,” Merino said. “We want to win this. We want to be division champs”