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Molloy girls make their move, join Nassau-Suffolk varsity league

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Rebecca Barrett knew things would be difficult for the Molloy girls’ soccer team in its first varsity season in the Nassau-Suffolk Catholic High School Girls Athletic Association.

The Stanners, a team without a senior, have to play against established powerhouse programs such as St. Anthony’s, St. Francis Prep and Sacred Heart.

But Barrett, a junior defender from Bayside, wouldn’t have it any other way.

“The competition is really hard and it’s such a short season. It’s frustrating we can’t have more time to train together,” she said. “But the program will definitely prosper.”

Trendsetting is nothing new to Barrett or junior goalkeeper Jackie Kimball, who were among the first class of girls in the previously all-boys Catholic school two years ago.

“I liked the fact I’d be one of the first girls and I liked the school and the activities,” Kimball said. “It’s exciting, we’re always going to be remembered as the first ones.”

Not only did Molloy choose to play in the Nassau-Suffolk league instead of the easier Brooklyn/Queens division, but also decided to compete in the ‘A’ division against some of the top teams on Long Island rather than the easier ‘B’ division, which was established this year.

“When we started the program, we tried to keep the big picture in mind, to build a program instead of fulfilling the needs of the girls of the first class,” said Molloy coach Mike McGuire.

While the goal for this year was to make the playoffs, which may be tough after a 2-5 start, to realize their long-term goal the girls need just to look less than a hundred yards down in Cunningham Park, where the defending state Catholic champion boys’ varsity team, coached by Andy Kostel, practices.

Kostel, who coached McGuire at Molloy from 1977-1980, has offered a helping hand whenever he has the chance.

“The reason we practice here is not because it’s convenient, it’s because we want to do things together,” McGuire said. “We’re already talking about the awards dinner, Coach Kostel is going to speak to the juniors about college scholarships. We want to continue with our program what Mr. Kostel started. I know the standards and we have set lofty goals.”

The challenging prospect of playing their first-ever season of varsity soccer became even tougher when McGuire learned that Sarah Kuehl, a junior forward from Bayside who McGuire said is “responsible for more than half of the goals the last two years,” partially tore her anterior cruciate ligament at the Empire State Games in Syracuse this summer and is out for the season.

But the Stanners have marched on and despite disheartening losses to St. Francis Prep and Kellenberg early in the season, the team has improved, game by game. Molloy trailed perennial powers Sacred Heart and St. Anthony’s, last year’s Catholic state champions, just 1-0 at halftime before losing 3-0 to each team.

The Stanners, who won the junior varsity ‘B’ division last year with a 9-3 record, beat St. Mary’s of Manhasset 2-1 on Sept. 16 for their first varsity win.

“We still have a lot of work to do on fundamentals and skill work, but we’ve definitely improved a lot,” said junior midfielder Maureen Hartigan. “The freshmen are a really good addition to the team; they give us a lot of help that we needed.”

One of those freshman is Jen Arcarola, a starting defender from Richmond Hill.

“It’s kind of tough because we don’t have as many players as other teams and we’ve had some injuries, but for a first-year team we’re not doing half bad,” she said. “We talk about how great it would be if we can start out something strong so eventually we can build up and be like the boys’ varsity program.”

While it may take a few years to establish, Barrett says she is looking forward to the days when the natural rivalry with St. Francis Prep, which also practices at Cunningham Park, heats up.

“They’ll eventually turn into our rival,” said Barrett, whose younger brother Tyler Barrett is the captain of the junior varsity boys’ team. “We practice next to them and it gives us something to strive for.”

Despite the potential rivalry, McGuire said he has received a lot of help from Terriers head coach John Jenkins.

“He was the first to bring a Queens team into Nassau-Suffolk,” he said. “We’re obviously competing for some players, but he’s always offering his help. He’s been very generous.”

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by email at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.

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