A sweltering September day and a slow start weren’t enough to derail the Harrison girls soccer team on Tuesday, as the Huskies turned in an impressive performance against host Rye Neck to come away with a 6-1 win. The victory puts Harrison (2-2) back at .500 and also may provide a blueprint for the team’s future success on the attack.
After allowing the Panthers a few solid chances early on, the Huskies found their footing midway through the first half, as a pair of goals by Caitlin Alcoba set the tone for the rest of the day. Alcoba would be the game’s high-scorer, but a number of Harrison players got in on the action as Cara Traficante, Jeannine Eljamal, Erika Miller and Andie Riesel all found the net. But despite the Huskies’ eventual offensive output, head coach Jon-Erik Zappala was hoping to see a crisper start from his club.
“Coming into the game we had talked about controlling possession in the first five minutes and really pressing the attack in the next 10,” Zappala said. “But I thought we came out a little flat to start, and we definitely allowed Rye Neck to hang around in the early part.”
One reason for the team’s slow start, Zappala believed, may have been the weather. With the temperature hovering around the 90-degree mark at the start of the game, both teams were unsure if Section I’s rules regarding the heat index would postpone the contest. But the game was played anyway with the caveat that the officials imposed mandatory water breaks every 10 minutes.
“It changed our strategy a bit, I was looking to sub players more often,” the coach said. “And at one point, I sent the bench players off the field to find some shade; I wanted them to stay focused on the action, but it was more important to get them out of the sun than to have them right there on the sideline.”
For Rye Neck, who was competing in its first Section I contest of the year, the loss against a larger school should serve as an important measuring stick. The Panthers will tangle with Dobbs Ferry on Sept. 7 before getting ready for a Saturday showdown against the Class C runner up Bronxville Broncos. For Harrison, who will play against Nanuet on Sept. 6, the last 40 minutes of Tuesday’s game should be a confidence builder especially in terms of managing a sustained attack.
“One thing I’ve liked has been our ball movement and possession in the first two-thirds of the field; from the goalie to the defense, from the defense to the midfield,” Zappala said. “Now I want the girls to concentrate on that final third, always looking behind them at midfielders crashing down and ahead to find a teammate with a scoring chance.”