Deeper Freeport eyes playoff push

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Freeport battled a rash of injuries last season to stay in the Nassau Class AA girls’ soccer playoff hunt down the stretch.

Now with plenty of returners and a larger roster the Lady Red Devils are looking to punch their postseason ticket. Freeport, which was down to just two subs for a two-week stretch last year, has added depth now with a committed group of 20 players looking to build off of last year’s 7-4-1 season in Conference AA-II.

“It was disappointing in some ways, but it was very successful in many ways,” second-year Freeport coach Chris Doherty said of his team having a playoff spot within reach entering the last week of the season despite a lack of depth. “It is our hope to build off of last year.”

Doherty returns six seniors led by co-captains Tyler Hawkins and Melissa Moreno. Hawkins earned All-County accolades after a strong junior season as the Red Devils starting goalkeeper and also garnered All-State scholastic honors for her excellence in the classroom. Moreno named to the All-Conference team at midfield.

Moreno leads an experienced midfield unit that also features fellow senior Ashley Peralta, who netted six points last year. Sophomore Ancksu Dixon and junior Tatianna Austin lead the offense upfront as seasoned forwards after big scoring years last season. Dixon netted three goals and tallied four assists in Freeport’s 7-0 home win against Westbury Monday.

The Freeport backline played strong in the season-opening shutout of Uniondale led by Darelyn Lewis, Cheyenna Bardsley, Anyeny Espinosa and Omayris Quintanilla. Hawkins recorded nine saves in Uniondale win to continue her stout play from last fall when she recorded seven clean sheets.

“She brings much athleticism and high intelligence in goal,” Doherty said of Hawkins, who is backed up by capable senior net-minder Gabriela Rios. “She is a team leader.”

Sophomore Arianna Martinez provides Doherty versatility a speedy option on offense or defense. The first-year varsity player shined on JV last year and has quickly adjusted to a higher-level of play.

“She stepped up her game on varsity from day one,” Doherty said of Martinez. “She is quite quick.”

In addition working hard honing their soccer skills, Doherty is proud that his players conduct themselves on and off the field. Freeport received a sportsmanship award from the Nassau County Officials Association last year after receiving no yellow or red cards for the entire season.

Freeport (2-1) is next in action on Thursday at home versus Hicksville for a 4:30 p.m. kickoff. The Lady Red Devils then travel to Hewlett for a non-league tilt Saturday morning before returning to conference play Monday at Hempstead.  

The Red Devils faced stiff playoff odds last year to make the playoffs when Conference AA-III and AA-II were combined and only the top team earning a postseason spot. There will be two available playoff spots this season in Conference AA-II, but the additions of Port Washington and Hicksville will still make the feat a big challenge.

“We take it one game at a time,” Doherty said. “I’m looking for a great finish.”