When training camp started, East Meadow girls’ soccer coach Adam Hananel wasn’t sure if the Lady Jets could maintain their high level of play after losing five key starters, including most of the back line, from last year’s 12-win team that went on to claim a share of the Nassau Class AA title.
His concerns were quickly quelled.
East Meadow, which fell a successful penalty kick short of its first county title in about three decades last fall against Syosset, is off to a 3-0 start and has done so in its usual fashion – solid goaltending and timely goals from last year’s leading scorer. The run continued with a 1-0 road victory over Farmingdale on Monday, which kept the Lady Jets tied with Massapequa for first place in the uber-competitive Conference AA1.
“I’ll take it,” Hananel humbly said after his team took the first two contests. “It’s a work in progress. We walked off the field not really feeling like we played particularly well, so I guess getting a ‘W’ is something to be said for that.”
East Meadow holds a 9-1 scoring margin thus far, with all the games on the road, and has not allowed a goal in its last five halves. A four-goal second half propelled the team to a 6-1 win at Baldwin in the season opener on Sept. 11 before posting a 2-0 non-league victory at Calhoun two days later.
Speedy junior Myla McLeod, an 11-goal scorer last year, has picked up where she left off with four goals and an assist so far this season. She had two goals against Baldwin and the lone tally in the Farmingdale victory.
“She’s more complete,” Hananel said. “She understands how to use her body to shield defenders once she gets that edge with her speed [and] she can finish with her right or her left [foot]. It’s not just about scoring, it’s about creating for other people too.”
While McLeod is scoring goals, standout senior goalkeeper Stephanie Sparkowski is stopping them as usual. She already has two shutouts this season after posting 12 in 2018 and has recorded 15 saves, including a season-high six against Farmingdale.
Sparkowski, who booted four extra points for the football team last Saturday, is also a secret weapon offensively. She is called on to take free kicks and her booming foot has already produced a 40-yard goal and two assists this year.
“She’s the most humble team-first player,” Hananel said. “All she’s ever doing is worrying about how she can help her teammates, [especially] the young kids, making sure they have what they need to be successful. She’s such a leader and role model.”
Emma Terino, Mary Fitzsimmons, Scarlett Espinosa and Hailey Dazzo own the other Lady Jet goals.
The new defensive corps includes sophomores Rebecca Shary and Katherine Marcus and eighth-grader Emma Chungata to go with Espinosa on the outside.
East Meadow visited Plainview-Old Bethpage on Wednesday before its much-anticipated rematch against Syosset at home on Monday.