An emerging program in the Public League’s Premier conference, Von Steuben is eager to make its name around the city. The Panthers constituted a classic trap match against division-leading Young on Monday.
The programs were coming off of spring break. The Dolphins were angry after losing their final PepsiCo Showdown game on Saturday and missing some key personnel with junior striker Andrea Gomes on a college visit with the school band.
Not to mention the surface at Winnemac, a natural football facility, turns most balls into an adventure, with intermittent rain falling throughout. Anything was possible, but a familiar face restored the order for the Dolphins.
Senior midfielder and captain Margaret Zahrah recorded a goal and an assist as the Dolphins dominated possession in surrendering just one shot attempt in gliding past the Panthers 3-0.
“It’s a tough field to play on, but obviously it was like that for both teams and really, it was just about who came out to play,” Zahrah said.
With the victory, Young (8-4-2, 3-0-1) maintained its grip atop the conference. Young coach Spero Mandakas impressed upon his team, beginning with the Von Steuben match, the importance of closing out strong against the team’s four remaining conference opponents.
Young and Lane have matching records in league play, though the Dolphins currently hold the tiebreaker of goal differential against common opponents.
“The biggest thing for us right now is that we can’t play down to teams that don’t have as much talent as we do,” Young junior forward Esme Kline said.
The style of play tended toward the grinding style than something pure and clean. Young controlled the tempo, offensive play and set formations (holding a 12-1 advantage on corner kicks). Young’s persistent edge finally broke through in the 10th minute when senior midfielder Emily Erf blasted a rebound shot inside the near post for the opening goal.
Von Steuben junior keeper Yuli Arroyo was under constant assault from the Dolphins and performed admirably in preventing a larger rout. She recorded eight saves for the Panthers (3-2-2, 1-2-1).
Von Steuben generated its only significant offensive sequence immediately following Erf’s goal as senior midfielder Cynthia Ortega broke free down the right edge and sent a ball from about 18 yards out that Young keeper Fiona Mcraith made a diving stop on.
From then, Young dominated every phase of the match. Playing a sharp ball from defender Zoe Saphir, Zahrah advanced the ball down the right edge and blasted a looping ball in the 30th minute that rose sharply past the grasp of Arroyo for the 2-0 lead.
Zahrah characterizes her natural role as that of a facilitator. She collaborated with another gifted junior, midfielder Morgan Hawthorne, for the final goal. Zahrah dropped the ball on the left edge and Hawthorne aggressively advanced the ball and finished with her left foot in the 76th minute.
“We’re trying to work to get more cohesive as a team, so that’s what we’re looking to do,” Zahrah said. “We have our heads up, and we’re excited.”