By Janee Law
The top-seeded Northport girls soccer team now reign as Suffolk Class AA champions after a 3-0 victory over second-seeded Smithtown West on Tuesday.
After a scoreless first half, Tigers coach Aija Gipp said she discussed strategies with the team during half time to prepare them for the second half.
“In the first half we played very defensive, and we didn’t attack enough,” Gipp said. “Smithtown West had a penalty kick in the first minute of the second half and, after our keeper saved it, I think it just energized the team. They started to step up their play and started to attack better.”
Tigers junior forward Victoria Colatosti gave the team the lead with 23 minutes remaining in the second half.
“Victoria was inside the 18-yard box and her composure to take the touch and look for that shot was key for us,” Gipp said. “Instead of rushing it, she had the second to set herself up and then find the corners. I think that goal just allowed the team to relax, play their game and work the ball around so that’s why it resulted in more goals.”
Junior midfielder Emily McNelis scored the second goal with nine minutes remaining and junior forward Emily Zeblisky buried the game, scoring a goal with four minutes left to play.
Senior forward Leah Dentale, sophomore forward Paige Leonard and junior forward Juliana Conforti each had an assist to push the Tigers (18-1) forward. Junior goalkeeper Emma Havrilla made 11 saves.
Last season, the Tigers lost in the semifinal round in penalty kicks to West Islip. Gipp said that loss inspired the team to reach this year’s county finals.
“It’s definitely what motivates us,” Gipp said. “It was great to have the whole team experience it and that motivation to get back [to the county finals] is what’s really driven them all season.”
Although the team struggled in the beginning of the postseason to score goals -- the Tigers scored two total goals in the two games leading up to the county final -- Gipp said they’ve “found the back of the net at the right time.”
She added, “To be able to score three goals in the county finals, it really gives us confidence going forward.”
The Tigers are set to face Nassau’s AA champion, Massapequa, tomorrow in the Long Island championship game. It’s slated for 6:30 p.m. at the St. Joseph’s College Athletic Complex in Patchogue. There will be a $7 admission wee.
Gipp said the goal for the Tigers is to focus on their team strategy.
“We want to make sure that we’re marking up tight, that we’re moving the ball and we’re playing quickly through the midfield,” she said. “When our defense can hold it off and our attack can follow through, we have a well-rounded team.”