Relying on defense

Zoe Loveman isn’t quick to point out a weakness in her Riverdale girls soccer team.

“I think we are going to be a lot better than we have been,” the junior forward said.

That is a strong statement from the three-year varsity player who won a NYSAIS title as a freshman and was on a squad that lost in penalty kicks in the semifinals last season. Riverdale also finished as co-champions of the Ivy League. It lost six seniors from that team, but that hasn’t caused much of a drop off.

“We lost some seniors, but I feel we are more talented technically than last year,” coach Orlando Osorio said.

The Falcons’ offense has the potential to be both explosive and versatile. Loveman, who was the team’s MVP the Past two seasons, is a smart and speedy scorer. She can produce a goal one-on-one, on a long run, or by being opportunistic around the goal. Loveman’s shot is extremely accurate.

“She can dribble through almost anybody, make her moves and get in on goal,” sophomore midfielder Rachel Copulsky said.

Opposing defenses cannot just focus on her. Riverdale also will have athletic and smart sophomore Zoe Michas and sophomore Isabella Bertagna up front. One of the question marks heading into the season was who was going to replace center midfielder Ali Margolis as the team’s playmaker. Freshman Zoe Clark possesses all the skills to slip easily into and make an impact in that role. She has field vision, poise and passing instincts beyond her years, along with a dangerous shot and speed.

Junior centerback Julia Tishman leads what should be a stingy defense. Osorio said his teams have been more about finesse in the past. This unit, which includes junior Aliza Green and sophomore Mellora Ansbro, bring a physical toughness and aggressiveness that will certainly bother more timid opponents. Junior Lindsay Weissman, a very technically sound and aggressive keeper, will be in net.

“Our defense has been spectacular,” Loveman said. “Julia Tishman in our center back spot is a complete leader back there. She is controlling not only the defense, but she controls the midfield.”

The finish to last season isn’t talked about much, but is still on the players’ minds. Even with a team that does not have the high-school experience of years past, Riverdale believes it can get right back to where it left off and possibly further.

“It’s going to be a lot different, but it’s only for the best,” Loveman said. “We lost a lot of good players, but we have excellent players to fill those positions. We are working very well together.”

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