By Judith Stiles
Anna Torregiano and Maura Mc Ginn will be the first to say there is nothing good about losing. Oh yes, they can recite back to you the aphorisms that parents spew when a team comes in last place during a soccer season. They have heard it all before, soothing words such as, Learning to lose is a good lesson in life because it prepares you for difficult times you will face as an adult, blah blah blah.
In last years 2003 Super-Y League soccer season, Torregiano and Mc Ginns team earned two wins early on and then bumped along with eight losses, earning them a spot in last place. In their first year, this brand new team had been accepted into the Super-Y League, an elite national league that also includes teams from Canada and Puerto Rico, representing the top 1 percent of soccer players in the country.
It is true that in their very first season they were a new and very young team, playing up against girls two-to-three years older than they were. Along with that age gap among teenage girls, there was a big difference in size and worse than that, our New York Magic girls from the five boroughs had hardly played with each other as a team before the eight-week preseason training, while their opponents had played with their teammates for over seven years. Our scrappy city girls also had to hone their skills on undersized practice fields, often dotted with patchy grass, dirt, gravel and glass; while their opponents in the suburbs had the luxury of practicing on regulation-size, manicured grass fields.
Excuses? Anna and Maura would hear none of it, and after only a four-week pause in August 2003 after last years season, they never looked back and began a rigorous nine-month training program with their team that was a little bit older, a little bit smarter and holding tight in their hearts an intense motivation to win, like any other respectable group of girls from the Big Apple. Under the leadership of a new coach, Tom Giovatto, this same team that had finished in last place for 2003, handily clinched first place in this summers 2004 season with a mighty 11 wins and one loss (the loss in a game decided by just one goal).
How did they do it? Wouldnt every soccer coach around the country like to know the secret of moving a last-place team to a sweeping first place in nine short months?
Now, the New York Magic Under-15 girls are poised to go to the national championship in Orlando, Fla., in November, with teammates from the five boroughs, including captains Mc Ginn of Sacred Heart Academy and Torregiano of Friends Seminary, as well as five other Manhattan girls, Alison Lehrer, Danielle Keefe, Jane OHara, Catherine Lee and April Solers.
During their winning season this team had remarkable victories over the Long Island Lady Riders and the Long Island Rough Riders, teams known for stacking their squads with the supposed cream of the crop, meaning players from the state Olympic Development Program. Our New York Magic team even beat the Westchester Flames, the well-known New Jersey Stallions and, in their last game against Tri-State Academy, a team known for having the best of the best in the Montclair area, our girls hammered them with goals started off by rocket shots into the net from OHara and Solers. This was followed with a goal by Alison Lehrer, like OHara and Solers, a Manhattanite. Sarah Peterson and Nicole Parenti of Staten Island also scored, with the final tally being 8-0. And lets not forget the beautiful corner kick by Torregiano, where she Bent It Like Beckham for the play of the day. It was not pure luck, but rather her third thoughtfully placed corner kick of the season that curved into the back of the net for a picture-perfect goal.
Anna is a player of another class, says Coach Tom Giovatto. Her skills and talent are second to none. She is a potential national team player, he adds with great pride, having coached her since she was 6 years old, when she was the only girl playing on her older brothers team.
Preparing for the nationals will not be easy. Several girls will be playing for their high school teams and all of them are enrolled in rigorous academic programs that will create an enormous challenge in balancing sports activities with mountains of homework. Coach Giovatto, along with his assistant Dragos Herenian, will not only physically prepare the players for the nationals with a strict fitness program, but they will mentally prepare them, which was the key ingredient in their taking first place this summer.
While most of the world has never figured out what makes teenage girls tick, Coach Giovatto understands exactly what it takes to make them excel. First, he has an emphatic and unequivocal belief in the power and potential of each and every one of his players. He has a contagious faith that they are capable of achieving anything, and this positive energy gives them the courage to work hard and excel. He is demanding at practices where he demonstrates an uncanny knack for bringing out the best in each one of them. Mary Mc Ginn, mother of Maura, jokingly notes that the girls would follow him off a cliff if necessary. In this she is really describing his remarkable ability to lead this team to victory.
Yet, when Giovatto was asked to briefly describe some of his players, he responded that it would be impossible to be brief. He humbly stated their success is due to the team spirit and leadership of the captains. Of captain Mc Ginn he said, She is a true captain on and off the field. Her hard work and knowledge of the game make her one of the best defenders in the league with tremendous potential to play at the pro level.
A week before Thanksgiving, when New Yorkers are busy planning their menus and shopping, mothers Mary Mc Ginn and Pam Torregiano will have to call on the brothers in the families to help with the chores, because Anna and Maura will be down in Florida, proudly representing our city in the national playoffs.
Then again, if you check with people who know these moms, they will probably tell you, The heck with Thanksgiving. The moms of this dynamic duo will put Thanksgiving prep on hold in order to go to Florida to watch these games, which they wouldnt miss for the best turkey in the world.