I covered North Rockland’s come-from-behind win Saturday over Mahopac for Section 1’s Class AA championship. My game story and some notes follow. Photos are by Frank Becerra Jr. For more game photos by Frank, go to lohud.com . –Nancy
FREEDOM PLAINS After North Rockland lost by a goal in last year’s state championship, there was only one goal — a return trip.
The No. 1-seeded Red Raiders took a big step in that direction Saturday, coming back from a two-goal deficit to beat No. 7 Mahopac 5-2 at Arlington High School to win the Section 1 Class AA championship.
And they did it the Red Raider way. That meant scoring in pretty much every way imaginable.
There were Julianna Cabrera’s and Amber Alfonzo’s absolute blasts — Alfonzo’s coming after she’d deked three times to get free to shoot.
Cabrera’s goal late in the first half was a game-changer. Alfonzo’s tying shot was a sign that, even with 37-plus minutes left, the game was likely over.
The Red Raiders went to their deep bag of tricks to score goals three through five. Daniella Devaney headed one in off Michaela Morales’ assist with 31:21 left. Taylor Aylmer followed suit three minutes later off Naya Rivera’s gem of a throw-in.
Rivera, whose throw traveled more than 25 yards, then topped that by scoring North Rockland’s fifth goal on a throw-in that went over the heads of a defender and Cabrera and off goalkeeper Daniella Cimadoma’s hand. Cimadoma made two saves after replacing starter Bella Rodriguez, who had 11.
North Rockland (19-1) will play the winner of Section 4 vs. Section 9 next Sunday at 11 a.m. in the regional final at Arlington.
“Coming in, we knew being up 2-0 would not be good enough to hold them,” Mahopac coach Ross Fumusa said, citing the Red Raiders’ quickness, ability to “score from anywhere” and “those throw-ins.”
“Naya’s throw-ins are just a great weapon to our team,” said Aylmer, who added Mahopac had come out with “a lot of heart.”
Mahopac freshman Morgan Kirby scored just under six minutes into the game off Jess Mastropietro’s assist. With 11:41 left in the half, Kirby assisted on Hope Wilson’s goal that saw North Rockland keeper Jenna Braunagel (two saves) deflect a shot but get caught down and out of position as the ball caromed away. (Below, Wilson runs to Kirby to celebrate goal.)
But exactly four minutes later, Cabrera sent her 20-yard missile under the crossbar.
“That first goal really fueled the (second) half. North Rockland came out strong,” Kirby said, explaining the Red Raiders controlled the middle of the field.
“The first goal was a spark and such a beautiful goal,” North Rockland coach Vinny Apicella said.
Mahopac (13-7) lost senior forward Jess Magnani to a first-half ankle injury. Her twin sister, JoLynn, the team’s leading scorer, missed the game with a back injury. Their absence hurt but, even with them, beating North Rockland would have been considered a significant upset.
“I just think our kids are very mentally tough and focused on winning and they were not going to shut down,” Apicella said of the comeback.
Notes: Alfonzo said, “As soon as I scored, I knew we were not done yet.” While she wasn’t credited with an assist, senior Isabel Zayas passed the ball to Alfonzo. … Kirby has three more years playing for Mahopac and plans to make the most of them. “I think playing with older girls has really helped me grow as a player. I look forward to the next three years and leading the team like our captains did,” she said. … JoLynn Magnani hurt her back in Mahopac’s semifinal win over Arlington. … Fumusa didn’t see anyone with as long a throw-in as Rivera all season. … If Cimadoma hadn’t touched Rivera’s throw-in the goal would not have counted because ball contact is required for a throw-in to be a goal. But Rivera understood why the goalie went for the ball: Cimadoma was in traffic, with two people, who could have deflected the ball, right in front of her. … Rivera wasn’t worried when Mahopac took its two-goal lead. “My mindset was it has happened before. All we had to do was keep our heart and keep playing the way we can play,” she said. .. Looking big-picture Fumusa said, “We had an amazing season. I feel we were better than a No. 7 seed.”