Brian Heyman covered No. 2 Briarcliff’s win over No. 3 Valhalla in the Class B semifinals. Brian’s story is below, along with pictures by Tania Savayan. More of Tania’s photos from the game can be seen on lohud.com . –Nancy
BRIARCLIFF The referee blew his whistle to signal 0:00 and the girls soccer players in the home white all streamed toward one another on the turf for a happy group hug, which sure beat the feeling they had after their Section 1 Class B semi last year.
Briarcliff tripped over this step in 2013, seeing its season end painfully in double overtime against Albertus Magnus. The Bears had most of their players back from that day Thursday. And they were bent on writing a different ending against Valhalla.
Second-seeded Briarcliff and the third-seeded Vikings were stuck in a tie at halftime.
But then Kelsey Simpson and Carly Fanelli found the net to give the Bears a 3-1 victory Thursday.
“To get beaten in the semifinals, especially in overtime, is a very difficult thing for anybody to have to go through,” coach Owen Scully said. “But I think it does help build a little more character for your team. They’ve been there. they know what the disappointment is like.”
“I think that was a little bit of a driving factor for the second half, especially. … They didn’t want to have to experience that feeling again.”
So they’re going to fight for the program’s first title since 2009.
The Bears haven’t been in the championship game since 2011. It will be Briarcliff vs. No. 1 Bronxville — the four-time defending champ — Saturday at 4 p.m. at Arlington. The Broncos beat the visiting Bears 3-1 in OT during the regular season.
“We have to go out as strong as we can because you never know what can happen,” Fanelli said. “I have total belief in this team.”
This 17-2 team was in a 1-1 game when Simpson took a penalty kick. The senior aimed left. Francesca Guzzo dove to make the save but Simpson followed her shot and kicked in the rebound 12:21 into the second half.
“We needed a goal,” Simpson (show above, l, battling Viking Juliana Corradi, r) said. “Whatever it takes. That’s our motto.”
Fanelli scored minutes later, converting Lexi Grasso’s cross. Fanelli also earned an assist on the Bears’ first goal. Amelia Leahy knocked in a rebound of Fanelli’s shot. (Leahy, 20, pictured above with Viking Erin Brosnan, 6, just before scoring.)
But senior standout Vanessa Romero, the author of more than 100 goals in her varsity run, tied it with 15:40 left until the intermission.
“Unbelievable player,” Valhalla coach Bryan Horn said. “She loves soccer. She loves the game. It kills her to lose her last game like this. I think she considers herself the best player in Class B and she wanted to take our team to a title.”
Instead, the Vikings finished at 16-3.
Notes: Guzzo had seven saves and Briarcliff’s Sydney Wolin (above, jumping to snare ball) had fives saves.