Somers Girls Soccer Coping with Losses0
By Chuck Slater
To say the Somers girls soccer team and Coach Paul Saia have outstanding records every year is an understatement. Saia, in his 16th season with the perennially successful Somers program, has just started his fourth year as head coach. In his first season, the team was a 22-0 state champion. In his second, it was a 20-1 section champion. Last season, his 15-3 squad lost the section final to Pearl River, 2-1.
This year? Well, let’s just say that being so good could be a challenge. Four key players have gone the graduation route and are currently on D-1 teams. Superstar forward Ciara Ostrander is at Yale. Superstar midfielder-forward Melina Couzis has her stick in UConn’s starting lineup. Defensive standout Mary Murphy and superb forward Jenna Menta are also cap-and-gown losses.
But that isn’t all. The recent rule disqualifying girls who played academy soccer means Somers is without junior forward Katrina Curtz and midfielder Ali Kalayjian. So you can count on one hand the returning starters.
Did anyone suggest a rebuilding season? Not Saia. “I feel very good about my team,” the coach said. “We’re going to have a lot of depth. We always field a successful squad. Maybe not so many superstars, but we are very well balanced. Right up to the opener (September 6 in a 16-game regular-season schedule), I wasn’t sure who would be starting at some positions.”
And then there is senior Claire Mensi, arguably his best player. Saia isn’t sure where the versatile 6-footer who was an all-section defenseman last season may be on the field at any time. “Anywhere and everywhere,” he says simply. Except of course as goalie. That job belongs to senior Lauren Jockimo, who shared the role last year with a graduation loss. “She did very well,” Saia said of Jockimo. “She didn’t allow many goals.”
Senior returning defender Amanda Brugger should be a big help to the goalie and the coach is high on sophomore defender Alexis Atkinson. Another sophomore, Jessica Rodriguez, should have a big role up front.
A healthy Mensi is crucial. Last year the tall defender, who relinquished varsity basketball to concentrate on soccer and has a scholarship to Bucknell, played seven games despite a foot fracture. But she then missed the rest of the season for an operation. Who knows if her presence might have affected that section final loss. “I think I would have helped,” says Mensi cautiously. The girl who started soccer at age three “and has loved it and its speed ever since” welcomes the any-position-at-any-time coach’s plan.
“I love it,” she says enthusiastically. “I love being able to play different positions. I look forward to leading the girls.”