The Mike Palumbo era could not have gotten off to a better start for the Lynbrook girls’ soccer team.
For the second straight season, the Lady Owls won their season opener over Valley Stream North, this time by a 5-1 score in a non-league match on Sept. 5. Lynbrook was in control from the start, but could only carry a 1-0 lead into halftime on junior Heather Horowitz’s goal. The Lady Owls had two shots hit crossbars and another strike the post in the opening session.
But the team’s luck improved as the game went on and got two goals apiece from Lucy Hepburn and Kayla Schwizer to put the game away. Schwizer, a center back, along with fellow juniors Sarah Fava and Leanna Sullivan supported goalkeepers Kathryn Postiglione (three saves) and Ciara Byrne during their near-shutout bid.
“[The] defense played great,” Palumbo, Lynbrook’s first-year coach, said afterwards. “Schwizer, Sarah Fava and Leanna Sullivan [all] helped Kathryn.”
But avoiding a repeat of 2018 will now be the key. After blanking the Lady Spartans in the opener and then tying West Hempstead the following game, Lynbrook went on to lose five straight and 10 of its final 12 games to finish 3-10-1, including a dismal 1-10 mark in Conference AB2.
Palumbo, a former longtime coach of the Baldwin boys’ team, is already trying to change the losing culture of a program that has a combined nine wins in the previous three seasons.
“One of things I’m trying to build is a little bit of confidence,” he said. “I’m trying to motivate this team to just forget about what they’ve done in the past. They should be better than they’ve been.”
This year’s roster features just three seniors after eight graduated last spring and a whole bunch of sophomores and juniors that Palumbo sees a lot of potential in.
“We are a very young team,” he said. “The talent is with the sophomores and juniors. It’s the underclassmen that are going to be the strength of the team over the next two years.”
Palumbo is trying to build his team from the back in, focusing on solid goalkeeping and a defense led by Schwizer, Sullivan, the other center back and Fava manning the left side.
“All three players are great girls and I’m very happy with their efforts and working hard for me,” he said. “Kayla Schwizer is going to be very important in the back. The two of them [with Sullivan] are going to control that back line.”
Pastiglione, another junior, recorded 95 saves last year, including 10 in a win over Kennedy last Oct. 4.
“She’s very good,” Palumbo said. “I’m very happy with her. She’s working hard in drills.”
Palumbo is hoping an offense that produced just 19 goals in 14 games last year will awaken following the opener. The Lady Owls tallied two goals or fewer in 12 of those contests and the top returning scorers from last year, Alyssa Campos and Olivia Vuotto, had five goals apiece.