The Oceanside Lady Sailors’ soccer team had a season for the ages last year, going 10-1-2 with nine shutouts, including five in a row, and a 57-8 scoring advantage. But thanks to a quirky playoff seeding rule, they amazingly did not qualify for the Nassau Class AA playoffs.
That’s because only the winner of that conference, which turned out to be 11-1-1 Plainview, advanced to the postseason. Oceanside’s only blemish of the season came in 1 3-1 loss fate was sealed with a 3-1 loss to the Lady Hawks in the season finale, sealing an unfortunate fate.
But now, an offseason rule change gives the top two teams in Conference AA-II a playoff berth and Plainview moved to AA1 and was replaced by Hicksville (1-13-1 in 2018) and Port Washington (2-13-1.) That should make Oceanside the huge favorite to win the division.
“There’s no doubt in my mind we can do that [again], if not better,” Oceanside coach Marianna Winchester said. “I’m letting them reach for the stars right now and hoping they can because as long as they stay healthy, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t.”
The Lady Sailors lost 11 seniors from a year ago, but a lot of the key players from the 2018 squad are back. They include 12-goal scorer Ashley Ladner, up-and-coming sophomore Julie Strainese, shutdown center back Lily Johnson and goalkeeper Mary Cecil (53 saves.)
Cecil saved her best performances for Plainview last year, stopping a combined 26 shots in the two games against the eventual conference champs.
“She’s a dominant player back there,” Winchester said. “I don’t think there was one goal last year where I could say, ‘Mary, you were out of position.’”
Just in front of Cecil is a strong defensive corps led by Johnson and newcomer Alyssa Strandberg in the middle.
“She’s a strong girl,” Winchester said of Strandberg. “She can kick the ball and she’s got the agility to move quick enough to cover space and make recoveries. She can make runs up the field as well.”
For offense, Oceanside called up JV leading scorer Nora Nestico, who impressed Winchester during their summer league. She has a chance to grow under the senior leadership of Ladner, who scored in 10 different games last year, and senior outside midfielder Luigiana Serrao, who chipped in seven goals and 10 points.
Winchester is also hoping for big seasons from center midfielders Micaella Romagno (five goals) and newcomer Adrianna Fucile. They will hold down the fort until sophomore Emma Schnell (three goals) returns from injury.
The Lady Sailors will get a quick taste of their new rivals as they faced Hicksville on Monday and will host Port Washington on Friday. Winchester is also expecting stiff competition from Freeport (7-4-1), which they won by only a 2-0 score on Oct. 15 after a 3-0 triumph less than a month earlier.
“Freeport was a surprise last year,” she recalled. “[They’re] very well coached and had a couple of girls that were very talented.”