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The Great Neck Jaguars

While many took a break from work to commemorate Labor Day Weekend, the Great Neck Jaguars never stopped working on their way to a first place finish in the season’s opening soccer tournament, the 18th Annual Bob Schrager Memorial Long Island Cup at Mitchell Field over Labor Day weekend.

The Jaguars, Great Neck’s under-13 girls travel team, went undefeated through their four tournament games, winning their first three and holding on for a tie in the final dramatic match with Wantagh-Seaford to take the tournament prize.

Trainer Leigh Pilkington had the girls ready for action following a weeklong training camp, delayed by a day due to Hurricane Irene. Their preparation showed from the start, as the Jags won their first match 2-1 against the Baldwin Eagles. Great Neck had trailed 1-0 at halftime, but came out fired up for the second half, with striker Madison Solomon pouncing on the rebound of a Lauren Reiss shot to tie the score. A few minutes later, Alexandra Mirro blasted a bullet over the goalie’s head for the game winner.

Next up were the Port Washington Panthers, a team that has always given the Jags fits.  This time, the Great Neck team never let it get close. Solomon got the Jags on the scoreboard first, and Isabella Malfi followed with a beautiful turnaround strike from the center of the box. Vanessa Lamoretti and Leah Klempner rounded out the scoring in the 4-0 shutout.

The Jags matched that same goal total in their third game, coming together for a 4-1 win over the Plainedge Liberty. Constant pressure by midfielders Rachel Brenner, Nicole Gany, Ally Hendler, Ali Lux and Brittney Zelniker led to goals by Danielle Del Ponte, Malfi and Solomon.

The stage was set for the tournament’s final game, as the Jags faced the only other undefeated team in their division, the Wantagh-Seaford Storm. Goalie Julia Steiner sparkled and Samantha Greben and Haley Raphael keyed the Jags’ defense as the Great Neck girls shut down the high-powered south shore team in a 0-0 tie. The Jags’ stingy defense, which surrendered only two goals in the four games, turned out to be the difference maker, as the girls from Great Neck were awarded first prize, winning the tiebreaker by allowing the fewest goals in the tournament.

A festive medal ceremony followed as the Jaguars anxiously await the start of the 2011 regular fall season.