Freshman sensation scoring goals at record pace for Brooklyn Friends
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Still just a freshman on the Brooklyn Friends girls' varsity soccer team, Halima Matthews is already the most prolific goal-scorer the Pearl Street private school has ever known.
With an eye-popping 58 goals in her first 23 games dating back to her eighth-grade season, when she scored 34 times in only 14 games, Matthews was a recent nominee for the coveted national NSCAA Soccer Player of the Week award for her outstanding performances on the pitch.
The young striker has lifted the Blue Pride Panthers into contention for their first-ever trip to the New York State Independent School Championships with a thus-far umblemished 7-0-3 mark through 10 games.
On top of all that, she's a great teammate and top student, according to her coach, Gary Lawson.
"Halima is one of the most humble young people I know," Lawson told the Eagle after Matthews watched her teammates post a 7-0 victory in a scrimmage against the Dwight School on Monday as senior Elinor Hills and fast-emerging eighth-grader Niamh Henchy netted two goals apiece.
"She is kind and caring and never celebrates when she scores, but always celebrates when one of her teammates does. She is also an excellent student with a promising start to her academic studies. In addition to soccer, BFS allows her to follow her hobbies of playing a variety of musical instruments."
There's no doubting that Matthews is saving her sweetest music for the turf at brand new Brooklyn Bridge Park, where the Panthers have quickly established themselves as one of the best teams on the Independent School circuit.
After putting together a blistering stretch in which she scored 16 times in four games, Matthews now has 24 tallies in only nine contests this year as BFS prepares to make a serious run at a league crown, as well as a shot at the state title.
"Over the past four seasons, our BFS girls soccer team has made huge strides, and look to have a great future with Halima still only a freshman," Lawson noted.
"We have a great group of girls and we have just restarted our Middle School girls soccer program so I am hopeful the conveyor belt of talent will continue and Brooklyn Friends School will be known as a wonderful place to be a student athlete. With the addition of Brooklyn Bridge Park, we have access to an amazing soccer field with a beautiful skyline in the background."
Last Friday, Matthews scored all five goals in Friends' 5-2 triumph over neighborhood rival St. Ann's, with junior Aoife Henchy assisting on each and every one of the tallies.
On the season, BFS has registered 40 goals against only six by the opposition as senior goaltender Sophie Adelman, who made an excellent point-blank save against the Steamers, and a strong back line have made it very difficult to penetrate the Blue Pride defense.
"We've created a great environment for our soccer players to represent the school and also play on their travel team," said Lawson, who has been instrumental in building the program up from its modest roots. "They don't have to choose. We support their desire to play and be active. It's certainly worked. The girls help each other with managing their time and staying on top of academic work.
"In Halima, we have one of the best strikers in the region," he added. "But she can't do it alone, and I'm so proud of the team and how they have played this season."
And then there were two, and they're both from Brooklyn.
Following Week 5 of the Public School Athletic League's varsity football season, only defending city champion Erasmus and 2011 title-winners Lincoln remain unbeaten, giving our borough the top two spots in the City Conference Rankings.
And a high school showdown for the ages in less than two weeks.
Fortunately for those of us who don't want to have to wait until December to see these two teams square off in the city title game at Yankee Stadium, the Dutchmen (5-0, 726 power points) and Railsplitters (5-0, 709 points) will meet Oct. 18 at Lincoln in what has to be considered the Game of the Year.
Of course, neither team wants to show up on Ocean Parkway that night with a loss on its ledger, so it will be first things first this weekend when Lincoln hosts Midwood (4-1, 396 power points) and Erasmus visits Canarsie (2-3, 289).
The Dutchmen rolled through previously unbeaten Fort Hamilton (4-1, 528) last Sunday at Sid Luckman Field as the backfield tandem of Curtis Samuel and Kahlil Lewin ripped through the Tiger defense for a combined 240 yards and four rushing touchdowns.
The stout Erasmus defense limited the Fort to just 78 total yards en route to the team's 17th consecutive victory since a heartbreaking 20-12 loss to Lincoln in the 2011 Championship Game in the Bronx.
The 'Splitters remained perfect with last week's 44-0 blowout of Campus Magnet behind 172 passing yards and two TD tosses from senior quarterback Javon Moore.
Lincoln has yet to yield more than eight points in any contest this season, while Erasmus has blanked four straight opponents since a season-opening 21-7 win over Tottenville in a rematch of last year's title tilt.
"Erasmus is still the champion so they have the target on their back," O'Connor told the Eagle following a 26-6 win over New Utrecht two weeks ago.
"But when teams come to play here in this atmosphere, they really want it and it shows."
On the private school gridiron scene, Poly Prep remained unbeaten with a 28-20 victory over visiting Salesianum of Wilmington, Delaware last Friday night in Bay Ridge.
The Blue Devils (6-0) will visit Worcester Academy in Massachussetts this Saturday.
Other high school games of note to look out for this Saturday include: Grand Street at Fort Hamilton; Port Richmond at Boys and Girls; New Utrecht at Thomas Jefferson; Sheepshead Bay at Beach Channel; Brooklyn Tech at John Adams.