By Jim Hague
The Queen of Peace girls’ soccer program had been perennially strong and competitive over the years, but the Golden Griffins hit a little bump in the road last year, when they won only four games.
However, veteran QP head coach Mike Flynn sees some promise with the Golden Griffins this season, especially with the youth of the squad.
“I would like to be at least .500,” Flynn said. “I know we’ve struggled the last few years, but I feel like we have a good group this year.”
One of the reasons why Flynn feels good about his team is the emergence of senior forward Christina Mastrofilippo as a leader.
“I have to give her a ton of credit,” Flynn said. “During the offseason, she organized everything. She got everyone to the workouts, to lift weights. She’s usually really quiet and for three years. I never heard her say a word. But now, this year, she’s in charge and I’m really happy with her. She’s really a nice player.”
Mastrofilippo is one of three sisters on the current QP roster, joining freshman twins Michele and Michaila.
The elder Mastrofilippo had five assists in one recent win over North Arlington.
The Golden Griffins goalkeeper is sophomore Lia Rodriguez, who is totally new to the game.
“I’m simply amazed how quickly she’s picked up the game,” Flynn said of Rodriguez, who had a fine basketball season as a freshman last winter. “She’s still learning the rules of soccer, but it’s coming together, because she’s so athletic and so smart. She’s punting the ball very well.”
Rodriguez had to make 20 saves in a recent loss to Secaucus, so she’s getting tested right away.
The team’s sweeper is Michaila Mastrofilippo, who has impressed Flynn with her knowledge and discipline.
The team’s stopper is sophomore Angel Cintron, who Flynn said is “a little rough around the edges, but she makes up for it with strength.”
“I’d say she’s a little bit of a work in progress, because she’s never played the position before,” Flynn said. “But she’s tough and strong and that helps here.”
Senior Lauren Mocik, whom Flynn refers to as “the backbone of the team,” is another defender.
“Lauren never misses a minute of practice,” Flynn said. “She’s a hard worker.”
The other defender is freshman Natalie Nagroni, who has already also seen time at forward and midfield, so Nagroni earns the tag as being the most versatile member of the Golden Griffins.
Sophomore Nikki Sammartino also sees action in the back line.
“She played soccer when she was younger and she’s just a good athlete,” Flynn said of Sammartino.
The midfield is headed by sophomore Marissa Dundas, who recently had the game of a lifetime.
In a win over North Arlington, Dundas scored all six of her team’s goals.
“We fell behind by two goals in that game and I was worried whether we had the firepower and skill to come back,” Flynn said. “Marissa saw to that. She has come a long way. She plays for a couple of good travel teams and that has helped her. I’d have to say she’s right there with the best players we’ve ever had. She’s just as talented and she’s only a sophomore. She’s going to get better and stronger. If we’re going to be decent this year, we need more games like that.”
But six? In one game? Even Dundas was shocked.
“I never had a game like that ever, even when I was younger,” Dundas said. “I really don’t care how many goals I score, as long as we win. I was really nervous, because it was the start of a new season. I hope this means we’ll have a great season. Scoring six is pretty amazing. I know it doesn’t happen a lot. I’m very happy about it.”
The other midfielders are sophomore Maria Ruiz and freshman Michele Mastrofilippo.
“They are playing well together,” Flynn said. “I like what I see of them.”
Sophomores Gabby Lombardozzi and Stephanie Ruiz (no relation to Maria) are the main threats up front.
It’s only been a handful of games, but Flynn knows that the Golden Griffins will be better than last year’s team that struggled.
“We’re a young team coming of age,” Flynn said. “I like the way we’re coming together. We have to see what happens, but there’s promise.”