Southampton’s girls soccer team lost eight games by five or more goals last season, but as a result of a Suffolk realignment, the ball game is going to change.
The Mariners will now take on more evenly-matched opponents, with coaches voting to follow a power ranking system instead of being grouped in leagues based on population.
Head coach Rossely Nava said at first she didn’t know what to expect following her team’s 0-13 2017 campaign, but as the season has progressed, she’s seen the benefit of it, especially for teams that struggle.
“Besides playing teams that are located closer to us, it lifts a team’s spirit,” the three-year varsity coach said. “It gives us more of an opportunity, a shot to win games.”
Going up against teams that are geographically closer because of the realignment from seven leagues to two divisions also helps the coaches and their players create a more in-depth strategy for how to face their new opponents. This is especially good news for teams that are currently younger, like Southampton, because the girls have just finished two seasons of facing the local athletes.
“They tell me who to put them up against because they know how this one or that one plays from their time facing each other in middle school,” Nava said. “It makes our job as coaches easier. They know our style.”
It works the opposite way too, for teams that have had less of a competitive challenge, giving them more experience against tougher teams before heading into the postseason. Division I will be comprised of 27 Class AA schools and Division II will consist of 26 teams in Class A, B, C, and D. The Suffolk coaches agreed to a two-year commitment for the two-division format with power ranking, similar to Nassau’s rule, which groups teams based on preseason rankings.
Westhampton Beach head coach Erika Habersaat is looking forward to a change in the pace of play after 10 years at the helm. She said her team, which went 4-10 last season, likes the idea of facing new opponents.
“Over the past couple of years, I’ve had probably the strongest teams I’ve ever had, and we’ve sort of struggled in our league because we tend to play really strong teams — and we play them twice,” she said. “The beauty of this is now we play each team once. It’s definitely a more balanced schedule.”
The Hurricanes head coach said it also gives her team, which has consistently struggled to even maintain a .500 record, a better chance at making the playoffs.
“If we have one or two games against a team that is ranked higher that could put us in a good place for playoffs,” Habersaat said. “It’s a way to get the girls more excited for the games, knowing every game counts. A really big win could move us up.”
Besides the competitive and geographic benefits, East Hampton head coach Cara Nelson said she’s also hoping to see an emotional impact on her Bonackers.
“The girls get deflated after a one-and-a-half hour to two-hour bus ride, or the long ride home after a big blowout,” said Nelson, whose Bonackers lost six games by five or more goals during an 0-13 2017 season. “The girls would also cramp up, they’d get tired. Now, to go into a game setting and know it’s going to come down to who grinds harder on the field and who’s going to leave it all out there, mentally it’s definitely an important factor.”
While the two-year varsity coach and former four-year middle school coach also likes being able to be able to come up with better strategies for seeing local teams moving forward, again, the mental part of the game is what she’s hoping to transform.
“You can have more of a game plan because we know where these girls have come from. And for us former middle school coaches, we can see how the development of these girls changes over time,” Nelson said. “It’s important to have those rivalries developed during middle school, because those are the games where the girls are going to turn it up that extra notch. It’s also important for us to have fans at our away games. This is something almost all the coaches have been in support of. It’s been a long time coming.”