It was a few minutes before the Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy girls soccer team was set to kick off the 2019 season when head coach Julienne Krause sized up her team’s opposition, the Lehman Lions.
“They’re one of the better teams in our division,” Krause said, “so this should give us a good idea of what kind of team we have this year.”
Then RKA took the field and simply dominated.
The Tigers got four goals from Laura Lozano, two goals each from Julia Miranti and Deniz Sonmez, and one tally from Gabriella McKee, rolling to an impressive 9-0 victory over Lehman at Van Cortlandt Park last week.
“This team is determined to do great things this season,” Lozano said after her brilliant performance.
It also may turn into a season where the Lady Tigers can make the Public School Athletic League realize that perhaps it made a mistake dropping the RKA program from the A Division to the B this season. After all, RKA went 8-2 and earned a playoff spot last year while playing in the A.
While the move means little to Krause — “We really don’t even talk about it,” she said — it certainly seemed to motivate Lozano.
“I think we still deserve to be in the A division,” Lozano said after her career-best performance. “This just seems easier. We train two hours a day, five days a week, and we’re going to dominate this year now.”
Lozano opened the scoring by finding the back of the net in the 14th minute of the game. But the Lady Tigers were just getting started. Miranti netted her first goal in the 21st minute for a 2-0 lead before Sonmez knocked in her first score just before the half.
McKee opened the second half with her lone goal for a four-point cushion, and Sonmez upped the RKA lead to 5-0 shortly thereafter with her second score of the game. But then Lozano went back to work, scoring three of the next four goals down the stretch to put the capper on the Lady Tigers’ rout.
So what did Krause think of her sophomore’s stellar start to the season?
“It was expected,” the coach said of Lozano. “She is really a strong player, but she had some growing up to do. Last year she was getting used to playing on the varsity level. But she had a club (soccer) background, so she was used to playing at a high level. It was just transitioning to varsity play and how it works. But I feel like last year she really learned what she needed to learn and was able to step in as a strong leader on the field this year.”
As impressive as the Lady Tigers offense was, the defense might have been even more imposing. In the first half, RKA senior goalkeeper Scarlet Irizzary could have watched the action from a beach chair as she was not tested a single time in the first 45 minutes.
After halftime, RKA switched to Jennettia Robinson in net, who ultimately made just a single save. Clearly the RKA defense was already in midseason form. In fact, the Lady Tigers defense was so stout, it allowed the Lions to only cross into the Tigers’ end of the field on just a handful of occasions all game.
“We feel like if we can stop the ball at midfield or further up the field then we don’t put ourselves in dangerous situations,” Krause said.
“That’s why our defense plays up so far and really makes an effort to always be first to the ball.”
With such young players in key positions for RKA — McKee is a freshman while Lozano and Miranti are sophomores — where does Krause think this team can go this season?
“This is going to be a really strong year for us, and I think this was a really good indication of what we can do,” Krause said. “We worked really hard during preseason by doing a lot of conditioning and skill work, and I’m really impressed that the girls were able to translate it into a game situation. This helps confirm my feelings that we are going to have a very strong season.”
But how strong? After winning eight games in the A Division last season, what kind of havoc could the Lady Tigers create in the B this time around?
“I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t win the league and go very far in the playoffs if we continue to play at this level all season,” Krause said. “I hope this game does send the message that we’re here and we’re definitely the team to beat this season.”