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Columbus’ soccer struggles stalled

The whistle blew and the Columbus girls’ varsity soccer team stormed their field in a rare celebration, as they bested Lehman 4-0 for only its second win of the season; a far cry from the stellar year the Lady Explorers enjoyed in 2007. 

Last season, the Lady Explorers overcame the odds to boast a 5-7 record in their first season within the Bronx/Manhattan A Division and advance to the playoffs where Columbus lost 4-0 to the eventual champions from McKee/Staten Island Tech. 

Fast-forward to 2008 and Columbus finds itself struggling in a rebuilding year after losing three of its star seniors, including leading scorer Raheema Mulla. 

“Losing three of your best playmakers definitely hurt,” said coach Jason Renick.  “We have a lot of young girls on the team and while that may be good for the future, right now it has been hard to compete in the A Division.”

Columbus has had a lot of success against an equally inexperienced Lehman team.  The Lions are also boasting new players, in addition to a new coaching staff after Patrick Straw dropped the squad from his coaching responsibilities. 

In a battle of rebuilding teams, Columbus came out ahead, winning their first meeting 4-0 on April 1, before repeating the effort on Thursday, April 17, behind the efforts of Paola Sanchez, who was among the scoring leaders for the team last year.  

Sanchez has struggled this year, but there were no signs of it against Lehman.  In front of a home crowd, the junior scored her first goal of the season off a Lady Lion defender to put Columbus ahead 1-0 early in the first half of play. 

Sanchez would score another goal, on a lead kick from Rafela Mascarin, off the hands of Lehman’s Asia Murphy and into the net. 

If there were any signs of how much the game seemed to be bouncing in Columbus’ favor, Sanchez scored a hat trick off an awkward kick high into the air that took a wicked bounce into the goal, putting the Lady Explorers up 3-0 going into the half.

“I really didn’t believe it,” Sanchez said.  “That was a crazy shot.  I never expected it to go in.”

Wendy Valladeres rounded out the scoring with a kick that soared over Murphy’s head in the second half, as Columbus pulled off another 4-0 victory, and maintained its 4th place position in the Bronx/Manhattan Division. 

“I think we worked better in this game than we have this season,” said Sanchez, who Renick applauded for her aggressiveness on the day. 

“There was better communication,” she added.  “I hope this is a sign of things to come.”

Renick, who was happy to get some players’ feet wet in the dominant win, was proud of the team’s win.  But, while hopeful of a better future, after suffering two losses to Hunter College, the Columbus coach seems to be looking ahead to 2009. 

“They usually only let through the top three teams into the playoffs,” Renick said.  “Beacon and Bronx Science are usually the top two.  We were hoping to get in there as the third team, but the losses to Hunter hurt our chances.  We just have to keep winning and hope to get help from outside sources.  That’s about the only shot we have.”

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