By Laura Amato
It started with a few preseason ice breakers. It’s hopefully going to end with a bit of history.
The Francis Lewis girls soccer team has staged one of the most impressive regular season performances in program history this season, shutting out every opponent it’s faced. In the first 10 games of the season, the Patriots have outscored opposing squads 68-to-0 and the team’s defensive line has become a wall on the field.
The group—which never played together as a unit before this year—has established a bond this season and, now, the Patriots ‘D’ is determined to keep that zero on the statsheet.
“This is the first year we’ve ever been able to do something like this,” said senior center back Sarafina Smith. “It’s just a great bond we have because this position is hard. We really care for each other when we’re on the field.”
While the Patriots’ back line was unfamiliar with each other to start the season, the defense has found a rhythm that now doesn’t even require talking. “We know who we are and we know who’s going to step and going to cover,” said sophomore Lesly Morales. “I know that if I pressure and someone passes me, instantly a center back is going to come up and help. We don’t have to say ‘Come cover me!’ It just happens.”
Of course, settling into shutdown mode hasn’t been an easy road to travel. Francis Lewis lost its starting goalie from last season and the Patriots were forced to make changes at the net during the preseason as forward Elli Tsourapis transitioned to keeper.
Tsourapis—who notched 22 saves in the first 10 games of the season—has hit her stride in net, but no one is more thankful for the Patriots’ defensive line than the senior keeper.
“They’re so easy to rely on and I depend on them just as much as they depend on me,” Tsourapis said. “We’ve definitely grown a lot—from cutting down on the turnovers that everyone has had to the defense relying more and more on each other. It’s just amazing to watch.”
The key for the Patriots this season has been learning to depend on each other—both on and off the field. The group is still friends once the game is over and that kind of relationship shows whenever they’re competing. In fact, it makes defending a bit easier as well.
“I think it works because we’re all a family and we all have this great bond,” said freshman right back Annalie Guzzo. “We just want to make something great and we just use each other as a support system.”
The Patriots surprised plenty of people last season—falling 4-3 to eventual champion Bronx Science in the PSAL semifinals—and that success sparked Francis Lewis this season.
“We want to win,” said junior center back Katherine O’Buckley. “We were so close and the circumstances of the playoffs were hard, but you can see we’re all getting a lot more serious and a lot more focused.”
Francis Lewis has its sights set on a city title, but maintaining the shutout streak is also important to the squad. After all, it’s fun making a bit of history.
“To come this far and not see the ball in the back of the net, we’ve never seen anything like that,” said coach Eleni Sotiriou “And everyone is just rooting for us to keep up this way through the playoffs.”