Hunter win ends Columbus’ soccer playoff hopes

A young and inexperienced Columbus girls’ varsity soccer team, led by coach Jason Renick (far right), has been eliminated this season from the playoff race, but will be working in the off-season to improve its standing next year. - Photo by Kevin Heckman

Early in the second half of play, with the score tied 1-1, Hunter College High School’s Chelsea Weinberg nailed a high shot off Columbus goalkeeper Asia Wheeler’s hands and into the net. 

It was a shot that would not only give Hunter (4-4) the win, but would also eliminate Columbus from the playoff race this year; this after a remarkable run in 2007. 

“We needed to win every game and hope for some outside help in order to return to the playoffs,” said coach Jason Renick, who pointed to fatigue as one of the factors in the loss, adding that missed assignments made the greatest different. 

“We had specific assignments out there,” he continued,  “and when we let one of the girls free, she made us pay for it.”

Weinberg also got free in the early goings of the game.  With her school coming close on several occasions, including one errant kick that hit the goal post, Weinberg made her shot count, kicking a bullet from the left side of the field into the right corner of the net, way out of reach of Wheeler’s hands to put Hunter up 1-0. 

Wheeler, a basketball standout for Columbus, proved capable on the soccer field, too, making up for the goal with several big blocks that kept the Lady Explorers close.  Wheeler’s defense allowed Rafela Mascarin to even the game up with an amazing goal that took a high bounce over the defense’s heads and into the net shortly before the first half came to an end. 

Weinberg would put Hunter ahead once more early on in the second half and that would be all her school needed.  While Wheeler would remain strong on defense, holding Hunter without another goal for the remainder of the game, Columbus could not muster enough offense to even things up.

“We do not score a lot of goals,” explained Renick about the loss.  “Our defense has been the stronger of the two evils, but our offense lacks the skills we need – passing and trapping.  When we do get up the field, we lack a true finisher.  We lost our best finishers last year and it is something we are going to have to work on for 2009.”

Renick came into the season with a great deal of inexperience for his players and has only been able to pick up wins over Lehman High School, thus a disappointing 2-7 record on the year. 

Rumors of a realignment that would pull Columbus out of the Manhattan/Bronx A Division it finds itself in now, and into a completely Bronx Division, could help the Lady Explorers next year.  Youth also helps. 

“We’re only losing three players this year,” Renick said.  “We have a young group of girls on this team; many of whom have never touched a ball before.  Now that I know what they can and cannot do, we can work during the off-season to improve their skills.”

Renick has seen a great deal of improvement already.  “We played a close game with Hunter today,” he said.  “We lost 3-0 to Bronx Science when they have been destroying other teams this season.  That gives me hope.  I think next year, we definitely have a chance at turning things around.”

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