Written by Ron Klempner Friday, 11 November 2011 00:00
Cold, muddy, shorthanded, and outnumbered, the Great Neck Jaguars set out to hold down the fort last Sunday against a tough Bethpage X-treme squad defending its home field. When the final whistle blew, the Great Neck girls under-13 travel soccer team couldn’t believe their eyes – and they couldn’t feel their toes. In one of the most courageous matches in their 4-year team history, the Jaguars held on for an unlikely 3-2 victory, their fifth of the season.
With several fluke scheduling conflicts, only 10 of the 15 Jaguars were able to make the trip to Bethpage, one short of the 11 players necessary to field a full team. Game time temperature for the morning match was in the low 40’s, with gusty winds. The freak October rain and snowstorm having hit the day before, the Great Neck girls were barely able to keep their footing on the mushy, messy field.
Still, the Jags scored the only goal of the first half, a sharp strike from behind the center of the box by midfielder Danielle DelPonte. Goalie Julia Steiner and defenders Nicole Gany, Leah Klempner, Vanessa Lamoretti, and Alex Mirro shut down the X-treme as the Jags took a 1-0 lead into halftime.
The second half was a nail biter. Striker Lauren Reiss was called away at halftime, leaving the squad with 9 players. At times, the Jags played with only 8 as injuries caused by the muddy field and frozen ball forced two girls to the sideline for minutes at a time. Still, the girls battled on, and early in the half took a 2-0 lead when hard work by Brittney Zelniker in the corner yielded another score by DelPonte on a pretty cross by striker Madison Solomon. The X-treme squad cut the deficit to 2-1 before Zelniker broke free and slipped a shot by the Bethpage keeper. The X-treme scored another goal to cut the lead down to 3-2, forcing the Jags to bear down and hold on. The confident and dominant center-midfielder Isabella Malfi controlled play for the final minutes as the Jags welcomed the final whistle.
The team’s record stands at 5-2, just a game out of first place in their 10-team LIJSL division. The squad is coming off a silver medal performance in the recent 2011 North Hempstead Cup, winning two of its three matches.