DRYDEN North Rockland midfielders Julianna Cabrera and Taylor Aylmer have a connection that would rival any duo in the state.
Cabrera, a junior, and Aylmer, a sophomore, have worked off one another for several goals this season, constantly creating opportunities for themselves or their teammates.
No goal, though, was as important as the one the pair teamed up for on Saturday.
Cabrera finished a give-and-go sequence from Aylmer for a score in the 68th minute to give the Red Raiders a 1-0 win over Webster Thomas in the Class AA state semifinal at Tompkins-Cortland Community College.
“It was just, like, no thinking,” said Cabrera of the goal. “It was just feet, and that was it.”
North Rockland will play Section 8’s Massapequa in the state final Sunday at 1 p.m. at SUNY Cortland in the Red Raiders’. The Red Raiders’ last state championship came in 1999 when they defeated Walt Whitman 2-0 for the program’s lone state title.
The Cabrera-Aylmer relationship is one that has continued to develop throughout the season.
“I’ve known Taylor forever,” Cabrera said. “We keep getting better and better each game we play with each other.”
North Rockland coach Vinny Apicella said what makes the connection so special is the fact both have such a strong understanding of the game.
“They both have a very high soccer intelligence,” Apicella said. “When these games get down to the line you can count on them to make the right play.”
The win also served as redemption for the Red Raiders, who lost to the Titans 2-0 in the state semifinals in 2010. Cabrera, starting goalie Shannon Robinson and starting defenders Nicole Aylmer and Katie Landes were members of that North Rockland team.
“It was kind of like revenge for us, especially the four of us who had played then,” said Landes of the win. “We wanted to come back and show them what North Rockland was really about.”
Neither team dominated play as both had opportunities throughout. Landes said the focus in the back was to mark Webster Thomas’ (16-1-4) top two scorers, Marley Jarvis and Nicole Gerritz, limiting their involvement. Offensively, Cabrera said the Red Raiders (21-0-2) wanted to dictate the tempo of the game.
“I just wanted them to play their game,” said Apicella. “We don’t have to be afraid to make a mistake. We wanted them to just go out there and play the way they know how to play.”
Reaching the state championship game means the Red Raiders will play for something more than just the 2013 North Rockland team.
“We get to represent our school and community,” Landes said. “Just to come back to (the state final) it means a lot for our soccer program.”