And then there were eight…
It took two months, but we are finally here. The sectional finals are upon us. I won’t make predictions in the state tournament, so this will be my last set of picks.
One note before my picks: Of the 47 playoff games played thus far, not one has gone to penalty kicks. Last season two of the four sectional finals went to PK’s. Not saying that’s what I’m hoping for— games that end in penalty kicks are the worst— but thought it would be worth it to throw it out there.
OVERALL RECORD: 67-12-6
PLAYOFF RECORD: 43-4-0
All games at Arlington
Class AA final
No. 1 North Rockland vs. No. 2 Clarkstown South, 8 p.m
Pick: North Rockland, 3-2. One of the toughest things to do is beat a team in the playoffs you’ve already swept in the regular season. That might sound stupid, but teams know each other’s tendencies when they have played one another that much. The team that has already swept their opponent in the regular season also has a certain amount of confidence, often times too much, due to past results. North Rockland is in that exact situation, having beaten the Vikings twice in league play this season. Couple that with the fact that Clarkstown South has a stable of seniors hungry to finally get a win against their rival, and it seems like an upset might be in the cards. Still, the Red Raiders have seniors in key positions as well— goalie Shannon Robinson and defender Nicole Aylmer to name a few—and are arguably the most complete team in the section.
Class A final
No. 1 Byram Hills vs. No. 6 Eastchester, 4 p.m.
Pick: Byram Hills, 3-2. Read into the 4-0 thrashing the Bobcats gave the Eagles earlier in the season all you want. For me, that game doesn’t mean much. This is the playoffs. Just like Clarkstown South, there is something to be said for the Eagles’ large senior class, including stars Monica DiDonato, Dava Fortunato and Rachel Berk. Something about potentially playing in your last high school game that puts an extra pep in your step. Still, I don’t know how many times Eastchester’s offense will even get a crack at the Bobcats’ defense with Byram’s constant pressure on offense. There might not be a better pair of forwards on a team than Nicole Hoffman and Carly Barnett.
Class B final
No. 5 Albertus Magnus vs. No. 2 Bronxville, 2 p.m.
Pick: Albertus Magnus, 2-1. I’ll be honest. Heading into the Falcons’ semifinal game against Briarcliff I wasn’t sure if they’d have the firepower on offense to put points on the board. I had no doubt in their defense, which has been stellar all season in helping them secure close games, but the offense had been a question mark. Albertus left no doubt that it can finish, scoring four goals to secure a shootout win against the top seed and a spot back in the finals. The Falcons seem to be peaking at the perfect time. As solid as a team as the Broncos are, I think the injuries they’ve suffered this season are just to much to overcome and repeat as champions.
Class C final***
No. 2 Haldane vs. No. 1 Solomon Schechter, 1 p.m.
Pick: Haldane, 3-1. I’ve said it about this Blue Devils’ team the entire playoffs, but it comes down to scheduling. Haldane has played bigger schools throughout the regular season, preparing them for a deep sectional run. This is no slight against the Lions, who have a solid playmaker in Rebbeca Landau up top that will need to be accounted for. Haldane just seems too battle tested. Don’t let the small-school tag fool you, Haldane senior goalkeeper Cali Schweikhart is one of the best in the section.
***Game play on Sunday