It will be hard to match last year’s 10-1-1 regular season record, but Forest Hills girls soccer coach Robert Sprance thinks this year’s squad has the makings of a city champ.
“I want to win the division, go deep into the playoffs, and hopefully win the city title,” said Sprance. In the short-term, the coach has his eyes on qualifying for the playoffs. Last season, the Rangers suffered a disappointing loss in the second round to Francis Lewis High School.
Six starters returned from that team, as well as four substitutes who have become starters in this year’s lineup. The Rangers have gone 3-1-1 in their first five matches, and several players are stepping up as team leaders.
Midfielder Lina Dominguez made a 100 percent recovery from a knee injury sustained last season. Sprance identified her as “the main playmaker of the team.” Dominguez has already racked up five goals and seven assists this season.
A surprise scoring threat has been defender Marcela “The Wall” Rueda. Known for being almost impossible to get around on the field, the senior impressed Sprance with a few net-ripping goals in practice. Rueda has proved just as strong against opponents, scoring five goals and tallying three assists so far.
The team is also relying heavily on sweeper Natalia Cayado and midfielder Laura Mejia, who Sprance said is the club’s most versatile player. “She’s the real workhorse of the team,” he said. “She can play anywhere.”
The coach noted a few “works in progress,” including goalie Caitlin Daly, defender Jacqueline Pereira, and midfielder Manuela Garcia. Garcia sat on the bench for much of last season, but she joined an outside team over the summer for extra practice. Sprance said she came back as a true soccer player. Garcia has already scored one goal for the Rangers.
In their season opener against Richmond Hill, Forest Hills found the back of the net four times before the Lions even had their legs under them. “We scored four goals in the first 20 minutes,” boasted Sprance. They went on to win 5-0.
Their other wins include a come-from-behind 5-1 thriller against PSAL Queens A-V Division rivals Townsend Harris and a 6-0 walloping of Newtown High.
The “game of the season,” said Sprance, was a rematch with Townsend Harris. Behind 3-0 with just 20 minutes on the clock, the Rangers scored three quick goals. Neither team could capitalize in sudden death. For Sprance, a 3-3 draw was easier to swallow than what had looked like an almost certain loss.
But this past Tuesday, the squad’s luck ran out. The Rangers came out flat against Arts and Business and lost 3-1. “We shot when we should’ve passed, and passed when we should’ve shot,” said Sprance. The occasional bad game is okay with the coach. “You put it behind you as fast as you can,” he said. “We’re gonna rebound.” The Rangers hit the road Friday, Sept. 23 to take on William C. Bryant before hosting a string of home matches.
The Charles Zink Girls Soccer Tournament will also be held at Forest Hills field from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. next Thursday. “What’s better than to be in the beautiful weather with a bunch of kids playing soccer?” said Sprance. “For me, nothing.”
The round-robin event is sponsored by Kiwanis. Six teams will participate, and each school will take home at least one award. Last year, Forest Hills finished second in the tourney and won the Sportsmanship Trophy.