By MIKE SMITH
In 2012, the Harrison girls soccer team had just about everything you would expect a top-flight team to have: good goaltending, strong defense, solid midfielders and athletes all over the field. The one thing they didn’t have? The ability to finish. Heading into the 2013 season, head coach Jon-Erik Zappala said that putting the ball in the net will be a focal point from the get go.
Despite being young this year, Harrison returns five starters from the 2012 squad, including Paige Brabant, Rula Samad and Gina Gerusso, who should serve as veteran leaders in the 2013 season.
“We haven’t picked our captains yet,” Zappala said. “But it terms of leaders on the field, we’ve got at least one player in the defense, midfield and attackers, so that is going to help.”
Zappala has been pleased with the chemistry of the young group–many of the holes left by graduation will be filled by sophomores and juniors–and he has been especially impressed with the play of up-and-comers Maia Samad and Erica Lamanna. Samad is a versatile player who can be used in a variety of roles, while Lamanna could be one answer to the Huskies’ scoring problems.
“Maia can be moved between striker and midfield,” said Zappala. “And Erica is a striker who has shown a lot, so far.”
But the Huskies’ ability to put the ball in net will be predicated on more than simply the play of Lamanna and Samad. According to Zappala, finishing is as much mental as it is physical.
“A lot of it is just you have to have that instinct to go and let it rip,” he said. “But the difference between scoring and not scoring is something as small as getting the ball on your left foot, and moving it to kick with your right.”
To that end, the Huskies have been drilling heavily with off-foot touches and, so far, Zappala likes what he sees from his young squad.
“It’s kind of like if you don’t practice penalty kicks all year and then you get into the postseason and have to make a penalty kick,” he said. “If we weren’t practicing that, as a coach, I’d be dropping the ball.”
On Aug. 26, the team took a trip to Lake George to not only compete in a four-way tournament, but also to spend some time forging bonds between the players. By the time the season opens up on Sept. 7 against Albertus Magnus, Zappala said he believes that his squad will be ready for the long season ahead.
“These girls are gamers,” he said. “We have some big teams on the schedule, but they’re not easy to shock. This team is ready to rise to the challenge.”