The Somers-Pearl River game lived up to all expectations with Somers goalie Lizzy Hanley jumping out to grab a Cate Feerick corner kick with less than a minute to play to preserve the Tuskers’ 2-1 lead.
May game story follows with some extra notes. Frank Becerra Jr. shot the photos that are included. More game photos can be seen on lohud.com . –Nancy
SOMERS Pearl River had played the role of spoiler and near-spoiler this season, beating previously unbeaten Byram Hills and nearly beating then-unbeaten North Rockland.
On Thursday, it took on Section 1’s last undefeated girls soccer team in the Class A semifinals, and, for a time, it looked as if an upset was again in the making.
But No. 2 Somers prevailed over the No. 3 Pirates 2-1 behind sophomore Melina Couzis’ 20-yard free-kick goal, which followed a hand-ball call with 11:09 left. Couzis’ shot went high to Pearl River goalie Lauren Gallagher’s left, just where she’d planned it to go.
It might seem odd that a sophomore took the shot, but it’s a role in which Couzis (number 14 pictured above) excels.
“I just feel confident taking those kinds of kicks,” she said.
The goal was a back-breaker for the Pirates, who bent and bent in the second half but still were a goal away from a potential trip to Sunday’s 4 p.m. sectional final at Arlington. Instead, Somers will face top-seeded Byram Hills — whose only loss was to Pearl River.
Pearl River coach Tim Peabody, whose team finished 13-4-2, gives Byram Hills a slight edge, remarking it’s a more balanced team. But the emphasis is on “slight.”
“The offensive ability of Somers is amazing,” he said.
That really wasn’t evident until the second half.
In the first half, the Tuskers (18-0) took a 1-0 lead with Hannon Eberts’ (No. 12 in top celebration photo) beautiful header off Shoshana Bedrosian’s cross with 34:36 left. But that was one of only a few chances Somers could muster against Pearl River’s swarming defense in front of Gallagher (five saves).
Pearl River had multiple other chances but was stopped by Tuskers keeper Lizzy Hanley, who was credited with six saves but had an equal number of key interceptions of Pirates passes that had assists written all over them. She was also solid in the second half, in part making a grab off a corner kick in the last minute, but her team had the better of the play with many chances.
“At halftime, we reassured ourselves that we had more talent and just needed to pick up our game play,” Hanley said.
“I just think it was old-fashioned work,” Peabody said. “They outworked us. … It was just their effort.”
Notes: This wasn’t the first time that Somers stepped on the gas late. Earlier this season, it was tied with Yorktown at the half before scoring several goals to win going away. The same thing happened in its quarterfinal win over Eastchester. The difference this time was that the Tuskers, although dominating, couldn’t find the net. Gallagher had five saves but multiple other Somers shots went wide or high. And Pearl River defenseman Kari Portington also made a very nice stop of a shot that seemed to be headed inside the left post. … Somers first-year head coach Paul Saia, an old Tusker himself, said his team stuck to its game plan of moving the ball in and out but he was at a loss as to explain why it was so much more dominant in the second half, commenting only that his players were “determined.” … Couzis said her team was “more composed and confident” in the second half. … Couzis credited Ciara Ostrander’s hard play with leading to the hand-ball that led to her free kick and goal. … Of her team’s evolution, Hanley, who’s a first-year starter, said, “We’ve gone from individuals with so much talent to a full unit. It’s just wonderful to play with (this team).”. … Peabody also saw his team, which included five eighth-graders, mature. “I think we’re pretty tough,” he said, adding, “I think they did a great job of being a family and playing for each other.” … While he thought his team was out-hustled in the second half, he remarked, “The effort was unbelievable by each team.” … Byram Hills beat No. 4 Yorktown in the other Class A semifinal. (Note: Stats from a couple of games have not been reported. When they are, recaps of all of Thursday’s action will be posted on the blog.)