Return Of The Lady Tigers
After falling to Washingtonville last year in the state semifinals, the Lady Tigers are clawing at a shot for soccer redemption.
With 17 seniors and headed by veteran coach Ajia Gipp, the Northport varsity girls team is 1-0 in its league and 2-0 overall just two weeks into the fall season. Gipp said the girls are anything but discouraged by their loss at states last year; instead, it adds fuel to the Lady Tigers’ fire.
“We need to work on staying calm and playing an undefeated season… We have some pretty talented players and we’re taking everything one game at a time,” Gipp said.
The head coach said that working on staying calm during games and working on shooting outside the box will be crucial if the girls hope to take home the state crown this fall.
Northport hosted its first League II game of the season last Thursday, when they took down Smithtown West 2-1. Senior captain and forward Kristin Desmond scored one goal in the first half off an assist from fellow captain and forward Natasha Albaneze. Smithtown also scored in the first half of the game, but only Northport found the back of the net in the second half to give them the lead. Albaneze scored in the 58th minute to lead the Lady Tigers over the Lady Knights.
The Lady Tigers also rocked their prowess in a non-league game on Sept. 9 at home, where they defeated the League I Ward Melville team in overtime. After a scoreless first half, Northport’s Sabrina Barton, a junior forward, scored one goal off an assist from senior defenseman Natalie Kropp. Ward Melville answered with one goal in the second half, tying the teams 1-1.
Heading into overtime, Desmond scored the winning second goal in the fourth minute off an assist from the proactive Albaneze to lead Northport 2-1 over the Lady Patriots.
Northport senior goalie Lindsay Demling had 2 saves at the Ward Melville game while the goalie on the other team had to save 10 balls, reflecting Northport’s more aggressive play.
“The girls outplayed them, more than the score reflects,” Gipp said. “Our keeper had 2 saves and we won the game; the ball just didn’t find the back of the net.”
Gipp selected five standout seniors to lead Northport this season. Returning players Vincenza Patrone, a midfielder; Mikhaila Martinov, a center back; and Natasha Albaneze, Kelsey Kearns and Kristin Desmond, each midfielders and forwards, said they are optimistic about the team’s chances going into the season.
A combination of talent, drive and discipline, the girls agreed, is what distinguishes them from the rest in League II soccer.
“We have lots of seniors on the team which is a big motivator. We’re all on the same page in terms of heart, and we all have the same goal,” Albaneze said. “We’re like a mini army.”
Gipp said each of her five captains brings a different quality to the table that enhances the Lady Tigers’ ability as a single unit.
“There are so many seniors and so much leadership, and each of them brings something different. When you spread it out over five girls, it just rounds the whole group out better,” Gipp said.
Patrone agreed that the team’s chemistry and years of working together, both on and off the field, have formed a powerhouse of a soccer team. After getting a taste of the state playoffs last year, the midfielder said she and her team are determined to get there again.
“Just being there for the first time, at states, was exciting… Now, having had that experience and getting to states and being up there [last year] is giving us all that drive [to get there again],” Patrone said.
Freshman forward Cybele Laisney, Gipp said, will be a strong player worth watching this season.
“The tenacity she has on the field, she just goes through the ball. She’s short but she makes up for it. She has that something, that drive, and she looks to take every chance she gets,” the coach said.
The team played Walt Whitman on Tuesday, but the final score was not available by press time. The Lady Tigers will host Connetquot on Thursday at 4 p.m. at home. They were asked to host a non-league game against a team from Canada, Hailfax West, on Friday. Game time is set for 4 p.m. at Veteran’s Park.