Match Preview: Women vs. Morris Elite

Written by Michael Lewis

Matt Lannon is one optimistic head coach as Long Island Rough Riders women’s team enters the USL W League Playoffs.

He feels the team’s great depth can have a great impact this postseason.

The Rough Riders meet Morrie Elite SC in the opening round of the Eastern Conference playoffs at Mountain View Middle School in Mechanicsburg, Pa. on Friday at 3 p.m. The winner will meet the victor of the Eagle FC-Christos FC encounter, at 5 p.m. on Sunday.

“We’ve got great depth,” Lannon said. “We recruited a team of 30-plus [players] and now it’s kind of coming to fruition. We’ve used a rotation and I think that’s super strong for playoffs.”

With so many talented and quality players vying for playing time, Lannon acknowledged it wasn’t easy keeping everyone happy during the season.

“Not everyone’s played every game or played every minute,” he said. “We rotate heavily. People weren’t happy about that. It’s been keeping everyone on their toes and keeping everyone’s spot open. We’ve gotten to this point in the season where we’ve lost some good players but we’re very, very strong.”

Long Island’s depth will be tested due to the departure of forward Lia Howard (team-high 12 goals in eight matches, and midfielder Bella Sember (seven goals in six appearances), who returned to their respective schools, the University of Illinois and University of North Carolina, to start preparing for the college season. That is part of life in the W League.

Lannon was ready for it.

“She’s going to do what’s best for her,” he said of Howard. “I appreciate that. Obviously, we’d love to have her. Bella Sember’s in the same boat. Would love to have her, but no one’s irreplaceable. We’ve got Jess Garziano. She’s unbelievable.”

The coach rattled off several more names, including Brittany Munson, whom Lannon considered the best center back in the Metropolitan Division, left back Alex Vegoda, who has been a dangerous overlapping defender. and captain Kate Marra, a key member of the Rough Riders for five years.

“We’ve got depth everywhere from every part of field,” he said. “We’re good, deep as we can be at this part of the season.”

The Rough Riders and Morris Elite finished tied for the Metropolitan Division lead with 10-1-1 records but the New Jersey side earned the division title due to superior goal differential (plus 49 to plus 30).

The teams split their games during the regular season.

Long Island registered a 2-1 home triumph on June 4 before dropping a 5-1 decision at Morris Elite on June 17.   Morris forward Claire Manning scored one of her team-high 12 goals in the second game.

“They’re a super athletic team. Some quality players,” Lannon said. “They scored two goals in the first three minutes of the game and scored three goals in 10 minutes.  Freak game for 45 minutes. Lightning delay. It was a weird game.

“They’re a good team. They started really well. Not making any excuses.”

Lannon’s focus is on his team.

“I’m not really too concerned about anyone,” he said.

The team’s depth could go a long way in take the Rough Riders a long way.


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