Volume 75, Number 49 | April 26 - May 2 2006

Sports

The Metoval team warmed up at their match against the Smithtown Maniacs last weekend.

On day of called games, girls play one for the ages

By Judith Stiles

Buckets of rain pelted the region Saturday and Sunday, forcing Greenwich Village Little League to cancel their games, as grumpy young baseball players were left to twiddle their thumbs in front of the TV or sneak an occasional toss of the hardball in the living room when mom wasn’t looking.

However, even when it’s raining nonstop, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association will not postpone an important state cup game unless there is lightning, or if the referee decides the field is unplayable. This statewide policy left Metoval team co-captains Maura McGinn and Anna Torregiano parked by the telephone all Sunday, waiting for a call to hear if their under-17 state cup match was called off. By noon they heard the gloomy news that even the Xavier High School rugby match was cancelled due to a plethora of mud — this despite the fact that rugby players usually thrive on a messy pitch.

Yet, after 2.34 inches of rain in one day, by late afternoon, the downpour miraculously subsided, and the co-captains got the word they could play their state cup game against their rivals, the Smithtown Maniacs, who had beaten them on a goal in double overtime last year.

“And oh, it has been a long year,” lamented one of the lugubrious Metoval parents.

Although these girls play under the banner of the Metoval Soccer Club, they are a hybrid team of city girls, several from Downtown Manhattan, and others from the outer boroughs. Many of them originally played in the Cosmopolitan League before 1999 in local clubs, such as the Downtown United Soccer Cub, the Manhattan Kickers, G.J.O.A. Sporting Club and the Brooklyn Celtics. As the girls became busy teenagers, enrollment on soccer teams dropped sharply, so they joined together as one new team to play year- round for Metoval.

With their coach, Tom Giovatto, they entered the prestigious national Super-Y League, in which they won their division with an unprecedented record of 11 wins and 1 loss. This sent them to the national championship in Florida in 2004 and then again in 2005. Yet, they have never won an Eastern New York State Cup, a tough competition that almost no Cosmopolitan League girls’ teams even dares to enter. The Metoval girls refuse to look far down the road to wager which teams will make it to the finals; instead they are taking the state cup one game at a time.

The game was in Queens. When it began, every Metoval fan up and down the bleachers knew the city girls were the underdogs with only 13 players on their roster compared to 18 for Smithtown. Making the odds even harder, only three Metoval girls on the age-17-or-under team were 17, with the other 10 of them 15 or 16 years old, playing up in an older age bracket.

Seven minutes into the game, Smithtown player Interrant took the first shot on goal from 30 yards out, which popped up high toward Metoval goalkeeper Lauryn Torch, who handily made the save. In the first half hour Metoval controlled the ball on the ground with great passing, while Smithtown played the long ball, trying to get it to their forwards in a “dump-and-run” style. Defenders Hannah St. Marie, Erica Buonaquista, McGinn and Bridget Dalton did an effective job of thwarting Smithtown’s efforts by winning the ball, and making crisp passes up to their midfielders. Torregiano and Gaby Zeidman controlled the center midfield with superb ball skills, while right and left midfielders Chrissy Klepper and Jane O’Hara played defensively, preventing their old teammate Dominique Rodriguez and other Maniacs from penetrating the Metoval defense.

Although sweeper McGinn went down with an injury from sliding on the wet field just 30 minutes into the game, she was back on the field in the second half when the score was still tied 0-0.

In the stands fans on both sides were nervously whispering that this was a very even game and all bets were off. Twenty-one minutes into the second half, there was a lot of traffic in front of the Metoval net and goalkeeper Torch was screened as a Maniac popped one in the net’s left corner, giving Smithtown a 1-0 lead. But in the game’s 85th minute, Metoval forward Courtney Snyder scored the equalizer, firing a rocket shot from the 30-yard line that skimmed just under the crossbar and off the fingertips of the Smithtown goalie and into the net.

After 90 minutes of play and a 1-1 score, the game went into two 15-minute overtimes, making the total playing minutes two hours. Fortunately Metoval had two great subs, Catherine Lee and Kristina Phu, who came in with fresh legs and helped keep the score tied. Although forward Laura Palumbo had a spectacular breakaway and adeptly dribbled rings around the Smithtown defense, the Metoval girls did not score in either overtime, driving the game to penalty kicks. After almost three hours of play, and five penalty kicks for both sides, the game was still tied, forcing the match into sudden-death penalty kicks.

Torch made a great save in goal, diving to her left, and then it was Metoval’s chance at a penalty kick for the sudden-death win. Coach Giovatto had Torch take it, and she blasted it over the goalie’s head into the back of the net. The Metoval girls bounded across the field to Torch hugging each other in the traditional pileup, overjoyed with the win. Coach Giovatto said he knew if it went to penalty kicks that his star goalie Torch “would come up big.”

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