Charlie Candela knew something had to change in the preseason. Oddly enough, with two forwards up front his Bishop Kearney girls soccer team wasn’t generating enough offensive chances. So rather than adding another player he subtracted, leaving talented freshman Darian Raccuglia alone at forward and pulling senior Emily Mason back to midfield.
“It’s given us more opportunity to work,” the coach said. “Emily as you can see is doing more work and more crossing. She feeds the team much better.”
That was certainly on display early against St. Edmund. Mason was constantly leading the offensive charge and had a hand in each of the Tigers’ first two scores. Raccuglia was always around the front on the net with well-timed runs in a 4-0 win over the Eagles in CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens girls soccer at the Verrazano Narrows Complex Friday.
“The first half was excellent, the working, the passing and the set up,” Candela said.
Mason opened the scoring by playing a corner kick short to her sister Kate at the top right corner of the box. She was not pressured by the defense and bent a ball into the top near corner off the hands of St. Edmund goalkeeper Anfisa Gordeev just seven minutes in.
The second score was prettier than the first. Emily Mason took a touch pass up the wing from Shannon Fahy, took a few dribbles and crossed the ball to a charging Raccuglia, who drilled a shot home to the far post to make it 2-0 in the 29th minute. Fahy added a goal on a 30-yard blast in the 70th minute and assisted on Erin Tacopina’s goal to cap the scoring with five minutes to go in the game.
“I figured Fahy was running, but Darian was in much better position,” Emily Mason said of the second goal.
Raccuglia, who has become a consistent scorer for the Tigers (6-2-0), easily could have had another goal, but fell on some hard luck. She saw Gordeev make a left-legged kick save on a breakaway chance in the 45th minute and also hit the post during a scramble in the box two minutes later. Cadela called her instincts beautiful and feels it’s just a matter of her gaining more composure as time goes on.
“I wasn’t sure about playing soccer for Kearney, but my mom and dad said just try out,” Raccuglia said. “I was a little worried in the beginning playing with older kids, but now it feels fine. “
Speak of youth — St. Edmund is filled with it. The Eagles (4-3-0) only have two seniors, but eight freshmen after not seeing any of its Stella Maris transfers come out for the team. The Eagles generated very few scoring chances again a solid Kearney midfield and sweeper Danielle Farragher. Gordeev was a bright spot in the second half, with five saves. Coach Cathy Blundell sees progress as her team, which has been in existence for only five years, has a chance to make the playoffs for the first time ever this season.
“Last time it was 5-0, now its 4-0,” Blundell said. “They played great. We are a grassroots team. We have no club players on this team.”
Kearney will get a reminder of its playoff heartbreak from a year ago Monday when it hosts Notre Dame. The Dragons stunned the Tigers in overtime in the semifinals for a 3-2 win. Candela is hoping for a repeat performance of how is team played against St. Edmund.
“I told them Monday do that same thing,” Candela said. “You got Notre Dame. Last year they made us look bad, so you better be prepared for a tough team.”