The position of goalkeeper in soccer is one that, in theory, doesn’t require the player to be extremely fit. While the rest of his or her teammates are busy roaming the pitch, a keeper spends the vast majority of time in goal, rarely venturing outside of the penalty box.
That was the case for North Rockland goalie Shannon Robinson in her first three seasons on varsity. The talent was there — Robinson helped the Red Raiders reach the state semifinals as a freshman and sectional finals as a junior — but the conditioning wasn’t. What Robinson had in ability she lacked in fitness.
By the end of her junior season she realized a change needed to be made.
“I was just disappointed that every single run or something we did I was always in the back,” Robinson said. “It kind of bothered me. I know I can do better. I know I can push myself more.”
So Robinson started running every day, usually a mile or two, followed by technique drills and sprints, lots of sprints. It wasn’t easy. There were plenty of days Robinson wanted to stay in bed rather than get up to train, but seeing the results from her hard work was addicting.
By August, Robinson found herself in a new spot during team runs: She was in the front of the pack.
“When she came in this year it was the best shape I’ve ever seen her in,” North Rockland coach Vinny Apicella said. “It meant a lot.”
The offseason work Robinson put in didn’t just lead to better performances in team sprints. Robinson, The Journal News Rockland girls soccer player of the year, had her best season as a senior, posting 13 shutouts as she helped her team to a 21-1-2 record and the Class AA state final.
Her improved fitness made life much easier on the pitch.
“I didn’t have to make all those silly dives,” Robinson said. “I don’t have to make those unnecessary dives just to receive the ball. I can just shuffle my feet and I get there in no time.”
One direct result of Robinson’s improved fitness was her ability to quickly come off her line and cut down the angle of opposing teams’ breakaways. Throughout the season Robinson didn’t think twice about taking on a charging forward due to her newfound quickness.
“She has no fear,” Apicella said. “She comes out, and she knows when she’s supposed to come out.”
That was evident in the Class AA sectional final against Clarkstown South when Robinson stopped a Vikings’ breakaway to maintain the Red Raiders’ 1-0 lead late in the game.
“I don’t have to hesitate before someone is coming one-on-one,” Robinson said. “I can just go because I know with my feet I’m able to get to the ball.”
Robinson’s strengths in goal even had an impact on the offense. Apicella said having such a strong keeper allowed him to send his talented backline on runs into the offensive end.
“It provides a cushion defensively,” Apicella said. “The fact that you know that she’s there, it allows our defense to counter from the back. They have that freedom to attack from the back offensively knowing that she’s there to cover.”
Robinson has already increased her training in preparation for playing at Division I Stony Brook in the fall, where the high level of athletes’ ability means she’ll likely start, again, at the back of the pack.
“It’s going to be hard at times, but I’m not going to give up,” Robinson said. “ I’m going to make sure I do what I need to do to get in shape.”
The rest of The Journal News first-team all-stars:
D — Laura Rolston, Clarkstown South: The senior center back served as the backbone for the Vikings’ defense. In her fourth season on varsity, Rolston helped South post five shutouts and tallied two goals and five assists.
D — Erin Woods, Pearl River: The senior sweeper served as the leader on defense. Woods was one of the major reasons why Pearl River posted seven shutouts and maintained a 1.05 goals-against average this season.
D — Nicole Aylmer, North Rockland: Aylmer, who will play at Manhattan next fall, anchored a defense that had 13 shutouts en route to reaching the Class AA state final. The senior defender also had an offensive punch, tallying nine goals and two assists.
M — Brianna Jean-Charles, Clarkstown South: A catalyst at center mid, the senior posted six goals and four assists and created countless opportunities for her teammates. Jean-Charles will play at High Point in the fall.
M — Carly Glaser, Clarkstown South: Glaser, along with Brianna Jean-Charles, quarterbacked the offense from the midfield. The senior tallied three goals and five assists while helping her team to the Class AA sectional final.
M — Jamie Nevins, Tappan Zee: Nevins was a workhorse at the midfield. One of Tappan Zee’s biggest playmakers, the senior had a balanced 13 goals and 13 assists as she helped the Dutchies win their first league title in eight years.
F — Amber Alfonzo, North Rockland: After starting the season at defense, Alfonzo moved up to forward and immediately had a huge impact on the offense. The sophomore was particularly effective down the stretch, scoring nine goals in eight playoff games.
F — Marissa Bentley, Tappan Zee: Bentley was the Dutchies’ leading scorer this season, tallying 21 goals. The senior forward, who will play at Iona in the fall, could also create for her teammates, posting nine assists.
F — Laura Marinello, Nanuet: The senior forward used her speed to her advantage, tallying 14 goals and five assists. Marinello graduates with the sixth-most goals and points in program history.
F — Julia McGowan, Albertus Magnus: McGowan was the Falcons’ most-talented offensive player, notching nine goals and 20 assists, tops in Rockland county. The senior forward will play at Dominican College next fall.
Coach of the year — Vinny Apicella, North Rockland: In his third season with the Red Raiders, Apicella led North Rockland to an undefeated regular season and the Class AA state final. The Red Raiders finished 21-1-2 and ranked No. 2 in the state in Class AA.
Gk — Jalin Cunningham, Sr., Nyack,
D — Brianna Flores, Sr., Albertus Magnus
D — Katie Landes, Sr., North Rockland
D — Deanna Trongone, So., Clarkstown South
D — Annie White, Jr., Pearl River
M — Taylor Aylmer, So., North Rockland
M — Julianna Cabrera, Jr., North Rockland
M — Julianna Madigan, Jr., Pearl River
M — Isabel Zayas, Jr., North Rockland
F — Tatiana Cruz, 8th, Suffern
F — Brianna McMahon, Sr., Clarkstown South
Honorable mention: Simone Arzoomanian, Sr., Tappan Zee; Tara Barry, Jr., Clarkstown North; Kaya Blumenthal-Rothchild, So., Nyack; Alanna Calvano, Sr., Nanuet; Laura Castaldo, Sr., Clarkstown South; Katilyn Diffley, Sr., Clarkstown South; Jennifer Farrell, Jr., Nyack; Cate Feerick, 8th, Pearl River; Kitty Kerrigan, Sr., North Rockland; Janie Lachman, Sr., Clarkstown North; Lauren Lawson, Jr., Suffern; Kaitlyn McNamara, Sr., Albertus Magnus; Katie O’Connell, Jr., Albertus Magnus; Rebecca Richards, Sr., Nanuet; Naya Rivera, Fr., North Rockland; Lauren Zimnoch, So., Pearl River.