NYPD women's soccer team trains for return to tournament play

On a turf field in College Point, Queens, walking distance from the new police academy, the NYPD women's soccer team practiced in the rain on the last day of spring, preparing for its first full-squad outdoor tournament in six years, thanks to an injection of new recruits playing alongside a core of veterans of both the NYPD and this team.

"Women who have been on this job for almost as long as I've been on this earth," said Police Officer Christine Galgano, 26, of Police Service Area 8 in the Bronx, referring to teammates like Police Officer Jen Marino, who joined the force 20 years ago this July.

"When you pass your police exam, my unit does the background investigation," said Marino, a midfielder and the team's captain, manager and coach.

Marino works in the department's Candidate Assessment Division, where in addition to looking for suitable police officers, she watches for those who played collegiate soccer to help her return her squad to the level of dominance they enjoyed between 2003 and 2010.

"Due to some retirements, some injuries and just some attrition through the job, we sort of tailed off a little bit," Marino said.

Lt. Lauren Wyszinski, 36, of the 5th Precinct in Chinatown, has both served the department and played on this team for more than a decade, and now looks forward to her on-field time as a reprieve from supervisor duties.

"Nobody mentions it," she said, "so I don't have to be a boss while I'm here playing."

All these women gather to watch every game the U.S. Women's National Team plays in this summer's World Cup.

"Even if I'm at work, I'm getting the updates on Twitter on my watch," Galgano said. "I stop at lunch and watch all the goals."

Galgano watches one player in particular: midfielder Crystall Dunn, with whom Galgano played in high school.

 "Everyone knew even when we were 16: This girl's going to make it all the way to the top," she said.

This NYPD squad also hopes to make it—or perhaps return—to the top, adding another four more former college players to its ranks when the academy graduates its next class in July.

"A new influx of players who are great with the ball, great dribblers, great scorers, fast, young," Wyszinski said.

The NYPD women's team plans to compete at the North American Police Soccer Tournament in Toronto in September.  

"We're definitely strong up top," Marino said.

Marino, who just underwent Achilles tendon surgery and will likely miss the tourney in September, harbors another motivation to return this team to full strength: This player, captain, manager, coach may retire in five years and needs to find the next generation to keep the team and its tradition alive after she steps down.

"Stress release, camaraderie," Marino said, "you can't beat it."