Captains Anna Torregiano and Maura McGinn in post-game meeting with Coach Giovatto
Girls play for love of the game, but scouts watch
By Judith Stiles
When teenagers show up at Pier 40 to play soccer it should be for fun and a love of the sport, where ideally both teams experience a spirited and competitive game. However, these days the subplot of games played by 11th graders often means playing soccer to get into a good college and winning an athletic scholarship. Parents often start pushing their children to be better players as young as 10 years old because the high price of college looms large.
Unlike most high school students caught up in the frenzy of college placement, there is a unique team of girls under 17 years old who still play for the pure love of the game. In 1999 they formed a team with a core group of players from the Manhattan Kickers, Downtown United and the Brooklyn Celtics, going to tournaments as a Cosmopolitan League Select team. Several years later they morphed into a Super-Y League team, which is part of an elite league that only accepts athletes who are in the top 1 percent of soccer players in the country.
When this team entered the big leagues in the national arena of the Super-Y competition at the end of their first summer season, they had 10 losses and only two wins. It was no fun coming in last place; however, this did not discourage them. For the next year they worked very hard under the leadership of a new coach, Tom Giovatto, who not only improved their level of play tenfold, but he also had a magical way of motivating them to excel on the soccer field. Only one season later in 2004, this team remarkably took first place in the Super-Y League with 11 wins and one loss, beating the toughest teams from Long Island, New Jersey and other top teams in the tristate area. They went from the cellar dwellers to being the Metro Division champs, which resulted in an invitation to compete in the Super-Y League national competition in Florida.
Again in 2005, this team had an excellent winning season, and next month they are headed to another Super-Y League national championship in Tampa, Fla., under the team name of Met Oval Girls. However, this year the stakes are much higher because the majority of players are juniors in high school, and because college coaches are scouting, it is imperative that they be evaluated in tournaments.
The thorny problem of expensive tournaments has hit every family on the team because it can easily cost north of $5,000 per player to go to championships and college showcases. Coach Giovatto understands the importance of their being seen by college coaches, having been the assistant coach of the Stony Brook University Mens soccer team, however he tries to keep the focus off the college rat race and on the training of his team. He is masterful at identifying a players strengths and weaknesses and working with them individually to improve her level of play.
In preparation for the November championship tournament in Florida, the Met Oval Girls have been playing as a guest team in the Westchester League, where competitive games are played every Sunday in the metro area. In their most recent game they faced the Manhattan Sirens at Pier 40, where Met Oval had only 10 players due to having several injured girls who could only watch the game from the bench. It was a chippy game, fervently played by the Manhattan Sirens, who were determined to beat the first-place Met Oval Girls. Twenty-five minutes into the first half, center midfielder Anna Torregiano made a perfect pass to winger Chrissy Kleepper who dribbled down the line and took a hard shot with her left foot that went inches wide of the net. Then the Sirens answered when Giraldi took a shot on Met Oval goalie Lauryn Torch who easily picked up the roller. Then 13 minutes later, Met Oval forward Courtney Snyder received another perfect through pass from Torregiano and fired off a rocket shot from 27 yards that resulted in the first goal of the game.
Met Oval Girls kept the score at 1-0 at halftime thanks to the expert defense of sweeper Maura McGinn and tough-as-nails defender Erica Buonaquista. Five minutes into the second half, Sirens midfielder Weinberg tried to dribble around Met Oval midfielder Jane OHara, who deftly picked her pocket and won the ball, then passed to Torregiano, who made a one-touch perfect pass to Klepper,who then fired a shot off from the 20-yard line that went over the net. Minutes later, Met Oval midfielder Catherine Lee won the ball and made a clean pass to forward Laura Palumbo, who cut around the Sirens defender and blistered a shot that sailed into the back of the net, giving Met Oval a 2-0 lead.
With 15 minutes left in the game, the Sirens attempted to rally on a corner kick but Met Oval goalie Torch made a great initial save when she punched the ball sideways, as sweeper McGinn swiftly cleared it out of the box. With 10 minutes left in the game, Sirens midfielder Frank caught Met Oval by surprise by shooting from the 25-yard line, scoring their first goal. Although the Sirens played hard for the last five minutes they could not score the equalizer and the final score was 2-1, Met Oval.
As the Met girls gathered in a group to unwind, the post-game talk was specific, filled with questions to Coach Giovatto about positioning themselves on the field and general strategy. The players were supportive and did not attack each other with complaints, but rather the group made constructive suggestions for the next game. There was a spark of excitement and anticipation in the huddle as their win against the Sirens ended the weekend and brought them one step closer to the nationals.
One player wondered aloud if they were going to have a walkathon this year to help raise money to defray the expense. Another player blurted out that they could have a bake sale, while a third player shook her head and groaned that she wished playing soccer didnt cost so much with expensive trips to tournaments all over the country. After a few seconds of silence another player agreed and said, Yeah, why does it cost so much? as she reminded them that all you really need to play soccer is a ball and a flat, open space, right?