LaGRANGEVILLE Amber Alfonzo’s goal proved to be the difference as top-seeded North Rockland defeated No. 2 Clarkstown South 1-0 in the Class AA sectional final at Arlington High School on Saturday night.
The win was redemption for the Red Raiders after losing to Arlington on penalty kicks in last season’s sectional final.
“They know what they needed to do, and they went and got what was theirs,” North Rockland coach Vinny Apicella said.
The Red Raiders will play at the Section 4 champion in the regional semifinals Tuesday at a time to be determined.
It’s been a tough road for North Rockland since its last sectional girls soccer title in 2010.
“We kind of didn’t know if we were ever going to win again, because we lost so many people,” said goalie Shannon Robinson, who was a starter on the Red Raiders’ last sectional championship team. “But you know what? This year, we honestly came out.”
North Rockland’s chances came early and often. The Red Raiders had eight shots, compared to Clarkstown South’s four, in the first half alone.
Still, what the Vikings lacked in quantity they made up for in quality. Senior midfielder Carly Glaser sent a volley off the crossbar midway through the half. Junior Olivia Szeker-Cortes intercepted a clearing pass and forced Robinson to come off her line.
The Red Raiders were able to finish one of their chances, though, as Alfonzo netted a through ball from Taylor Aylmer past Laura Castaldo (eight saves) in the 22nd minute.
“She’s been big,” Apicella said of Alfonzo. “She’s gotten big goals when they are needed.”
Apicella was also pleased that his team was able to take an early lead against a team that has given them tough games in the past.
“That what we were hoping we could do, to get ahead early,” Apicella said. “We don’t want to have to have to play catch up. They match up with us very well, and they are coached very well.”
Robinson, who finished the game with eight saves, made key stops down the stretch. Her biggest came when she was forced to leave her line on a Brianna McMahon breakaway with 10 minutes remaining.
“As good as (Robinson) is, she’s gotten even better,” Apicella said. “It’s because of the way she has worked out. She is a hard worker.”
Improvement has been a theme among the entire team. North Rockland has continued to get better as the season has progressed, making them a scary opponent entering the state tournament.
“Their team game as improved,” Apicella said. “I think that’s what it’s going to take to keep going.”
Photo courtesy of Peter Carr/Journal News.