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Red Storm’s Mendoza enjoying Fury-ous summer

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GARDEN CITY, L.I. — The Long Island Fury is a sorority as much as it is a soccer team. The motto, according to Coach Paul Riley, is “Fury for life,” and that appears evident, as almost every one of the players on his stacked Women’s Premier Soccer League roster has competed for the Albertson Fury, some since age 7.

Tara Mendoza is a rare exception, although you wouldn’t know that by watching her play alongside Fury lifer Alyssa Pember in the center of the Fury’s stingy backline. Mendoza, a rising senior at St. John’s University, is comfortable on the ball, confident in the air and aligns herself with the rest of the Fury’s galaxy of stars.

But Mendoza is new to the Fury family after joining this summer. She was looking for quality competition and a great training environment in preparation for her senior year at St. John’s.

Mendoza found that, and much more, with the Long Island Fury.

“They’re all very welcoming and they’re such good players that I’m lucky to play with them this summer,” she said. “I’m glad I got this opportunity to play with such talented players. It’s a great practice environment for my senior year because this is it for me.”

Mendoza said she is having a much better, and more productive, summer this year than last when she played for the Long Island Rough Riders in the W League.

“I didn’t really mix in as well with the Rough Riders,” she said. “I think the practice environment for the Fury is so much better, more competitive compared to the Rough Riders.”

While Mendoza is new to the Fury, she’s been aware of Riley’s program for almost all of her soccer-playing life. She competed against the players as a member of the ISA East Meadow Magic and the Commack Emeralds, which is when Riley first noticed Mendoza, then a 13-year-old.

“She’s a lot more polished now, she’s a bit more composed on the ball, she makes nice passes,” Riley said. “She’s not just a winner of the ball. She very rarely gets rushed, always looks like she has time on the ball, which is a sign of a good player.”

It’s taken nearly eight years, but the 5-foot-5 Mendoza, who has played outside back, centerback and defensive midfielder in her three years at St. John’s, is finally with the Fury. She has fit right in and has helped the team reach the WPSL national championship game following a 3-0 win against Dallas Premier in the semifinals Saturday night at Adelphi University.

It was the Fury’s fourth-straight shutout and fifth in six games. Their record stands at 13-0-1. Goalkeeper Jillian Mastroianni had little to do against a Dallas squad littered with Division I talent. Mendoza is a big reason why.

“It’s good to get her finally over,” Riley said Saturday night. “I’ve admired her for a long time. I’m glad she came because the partnership she’s developed with Pember has gotten better and better. She’s been terrific. Today, they were first to every ball. They must have won 40 headers between them.”

Mendoza reported to preseason at St. John’s Aug. 11, having already played 15 quality games during the summer. She said she is excited about her final season with the Red Storm.

“We have 15 seniors, talented freshmen coming in,” Mendoza said. “This is our year. We’re going to go for the Big East, the [NCAA] tournament, everything.”

Considering Mendoza’s Fury-ous summer, Red Storm fans have good reason to be optimistic, too.

Posted 6:32 pm, October 10, 2011
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