Nationally ranked Garnets on a scintillating tear

Opponents should be wary of getting in the way of the Rye girls’ soccer team. St. Luke’s learned that the hard way October 3 under the lights at Nugent Stadium, as the Garnets picked up their ninth win of the year in a 3-0 victory.

Ever since the playoffs began last season, the 9-0-1 reigning Class A State champions have performed like a force of nature. The Garnets are unbeaten in 15 games dating back to those six 2008 playoff games, and have outscored opponents 39-4 during the run. Ranked No. 6 nationally, Rye is showing no signs of slowing down.

Tatiana Saunders, her Garnets teammates, and Rye Youth Soccer players

Tatiana Saunders, her Garnet teammates, and Rye Youth Soccer players

“We are proud of the start of our season, but we know we have much work to do to continue to be successful,” said head coach Rich Savage. “We keep the same goals as any other year – first try to win the League, then the Section. Each game we count our stretches to 11/ 7, the date of the sectional finals. We want to be playing in that contest again this year.”

Rye’s resounding win against St. Luke’s gave them a measure of revenge for a 1-0 loss last season. On a foggy night and a rain-soaked surface, the game started slowly as players from both teams literally struggled to find their footing. The contest was scoreless until, with two minutes left in the first half, Catharine Greer made a strong tackle and took the ball from St. Luke’s best player, Carla Nicasio. She then worked a combination play with Erin McCarty, who was able to play the ball out wide to Maddy Chabot. Chabot crossed the ball perfectly to junior Lia Bellizzi, who jumped above the defender and headed the ball into the corner of the net.

Bellizzi scored again with 33 minutes left to play, and Carter Talgo added Rye’s third goal with two minutes to go in the game. Once again, Talgo was solid in the center of the field for the Garnets. She controlled the pace of the game, and by winning all 50/50 balls, she settled Rye down.

“It was only fitting that Carter finish with a world-class goal on a rocket of a shot 30 yards out that was put in the upper 90 of the net,” said Savage. “It was certainly a goal that everyone watching will remember.”

Greer was able to change the pace of the game for the Garnets. She moved from center back to center midfield to stop Nicasio, and simply outhustled and outplayed her opponent the entire game. In addition, the outside midfield play of both Kaelyn Lucas and Maddy Chabot was tremendous for the Rye. Their speed makes for offensive firepower and strong defense. Savage also praised Rita Futamura. He said her hustle created opportunities and that, more importantly, her outstanding play came while she was still getting over bronchitis.

“We never stopped playing and just kept pushing until the final whistle,” said junior goalkeeper and captain Tatiana Saunders, who made 10 saves. “The bench was very loud, and the girls who filled in for the starters did an awesome job keeping up the tempo of the game. In good Rye tradition, it basically came down to doing it ‘together’.”

The Garnets will be without Saunders, who has allowed just one goal this season, until October 16, because she was selected to play for the England U17 National Team at the European Championships in Macedonia.

“We are proud of Tatiana and her opportunity to play overseas, and I only wish the best of luck to her with this outstanding opportunity,” said Savage. “We will certainly feel the effects of not having her for 10 days. We will miss her leadership and ability to play from the back. We’ll need to pick up our play to make certain we stay strong defensively.”

Freshman Lexi Hijazi will start in Saunders’ absence. She is an extremely talented keeperwho would certainly be a starter for any other team in the Section.

– Melanie Cane

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