It all comes down to this — at least as far as locally-played soccer is concerned.
Sunday, North Rockland, Somers and Bronxville will look to join Haldane in next weekend’s state girls soccer semifinals.
The three are one win away.
North Rockland, which has one loss (by a last-minute goal to Byram Hills), will play Section 9’s Monroe-Woodbury in the Class AA regional final.
That game is at 11 a.m. at Arlington High School
Although they haven’t played each other this season, North Rockland is familiar with Monroe-Woodbury from past encounters.
It’s hard to imagine anything topping last year’s — a North Rockland regional finale win over Monroe-Woodbury via penalty kicks.
“I know they’re a tough team and have a very good midfield and a tough goalie,” North Rockland coach Vinny Apicella said.
Perhaps Monroe-Woodbury’s greatest strength is its quick counter-attack, according to Apicella.
That means the speedy Red Raiders can’t dawdle on getting back after a possession change.
The Crusaders, who are 17-2 and were the top seed in Section 9, will start eight seniors, coach Leslie Ahlborn noted. Included is goalie Courtney Dumain and four-year player/captain Nikki Wagner, a midfielder who’s probably Monroe-Woodbury’s best all-around player.
The senior-heavy lineup provides both experience and cohesiveness, Ahlborn said.
She pointed to Juliana Cabrera, Naya Rivera and Amber Alfonzo as being three of the Red Raiders’ bes players in a “very talented group.”
“It’s really going to be about maturity tomorrow. Both teams have tremendous athletes,” Ahlborn said Saturday, predicting the game would go to the team that’s “just understanding the game a little bit quicker, being more composed.”
“We’re both intense as far as wanting this next level. I think it will be the full 80 minutes (that will decide things).” Ahlborn said.
Unless it’s like last year. Then it will be much more.
Somers, the only undefeated team in the section, will play at 1:30 p.m. in the Class A regional final against the Section 9 Goshen Gladiators.
The No. 2-seeded Tuskers reached this point by beating Lourdes, Eastchester, Pearl River and, finally, No. 1 Byram Hills.
The Tuskers’ vaunted defense, which shut out powerful Byram Hills, may be tested by 18-1 Goshen, whose leading scorer is junior striker Braxton Clark.
Somers played its best game of the season against Byram Hills, which, despite its one, regular-season loss to Pearl River, was more highly regarded all season.
It’s hard to think Somers might be flat for a regional final — hard, except the win against Bryam Hills was just so big.
Somers coach Paul Saia, who had his kids out training Saturday morning, is guarding against a letdown.
“That’s the challenge, coming off a real high,” he said. “They’ve got to stay focused and be prepared to play and not look past any games. That’s a dangerous thing to do.”
Indeed, Goshen, the number one seed in Section 9, can’t be overlooked. It played North Rockland this season, falling by just a goal, 3-2. And it beat North Rockland’s Double A opponent, Monroe-Woodbury.
Throw in the fact it’s an experienced club that has much reason to want this game, having fallen in double overtime in last year’s state semifinals, and it’s clear Somers will have to be on its game to win.
“I know they’re a very solid team,” Saia said, citing Goshen’s offense and defense, including its keeper.
Against Byram Hills, Somers utilized its speed and ball control/movement. Most importantly, it came out on the attack, something it didn’t always do in earlier games, when it relied on strong second halves to win.
In the second half against Byram Hills, when the Bobcats’ pressed, Somers’ defense, led by Michelle Wienecke and ever-improving goalie Lizzy Hanley, stepped up. And, as much as it could, Somers kept applying offensive pressure.
That’s the kind of effort that will get the Tuskers to Cortland next weekend.
Bronxville would like to join that trip.
The Section 1 Class B champs, who entered that tournament as the top seed, beat Putnam Valley, Westlake, Albertus Magnus and Briarcliff to win the right to face Seton Catholic Central.
The Bingthamton-based squad is 16-1. Bronxville is 18-1.
The Section 4 team beat Section 9 Spackenkill in the regional semis. It also beat last year’s Class B state champion, Oneonta, twice — once during the regular season and then in the playoffs.
The Saints’ roster sports sisters Kaelynn, Genna and Marissa Michitti, transfers from Maine-Endwell.
The sophomore Genna and senior Kaelynn are huge difference-makers.
Kaelynn, a senior, will play soccer next year at SUNY-Broome and Genna is the team’s leading scorer.
Genna had two goals and Kaelynn the other in Seton’s 3-2 win over Spackenkill.
“They’re very offensive-minded. They’re strong up the middle,” said Bronxville coach Don Cupertino, who noted the Saints have tallied 86 goals, while yielding just a handful.
“We’re worried about them. They’re probably worried about us,” Cupertino said.
The Broncos have some walking-wounded but no one is expected to sit on the bench due to injury.
The Broncos will need big scorer Caitlin Fryer to be Caitlin Fryer, bruised knee or no.
If anything, another week in her cast for a broken wrist should give another huge offensive threat, Lucy Kohlhoff, some more confidence coming into the regional final. She said, trying to avoid contact, she probably moved the ball a little quicker in Bronxville’s 3-0 win over Briarcliff in the section final.
That, of course, didn’t stop her from scoring, along with Killian Donohue, who netted a pair.
Figure netminder Charley Warble may be tested more than she was in that game, when she had 10 saves. But Warble is usually a rock. And the team with the hot, aggressive goalie usually ends up winning these games.
So the stage is set for high-level drama and high-level soccer Sunday.
With a forecast of partly to mostly sunny skies, temperatures in the low 50s, a snack bar, indoor bathrooms and nearby fast food restaurants, spending the day at Arlington High doesn’t seem like a bad plan.
Notes: I personally don’t love rankings — at least, not for high school teams.
But it’s nice to note that local teams are well-regarded throughout the state.
The New York State Sportswriters Association currently has 15-4 Haldane as No. 1 in Class C, something that no doubt in part reflects the Blue Devils’ practice of playing strong, larger schools during the regular season.
Both Somers in Class A and Bronxville in B are ranked third. (Goshen is fourth in A.)
And North Rockland, whose penalty-kick playoff win is considered a tie, is ranked fifth in AA. Its Sunday opponent, Monroe-Woodbury, is listed as 10th. Of course, at this moment, all of the above have a shot at being number one by the conclusion of next Sunday’s games. …
I will tweet during this Sunday’s regional final games but if there’s a long wait between tweets, that’s because as wonderful a facility as Arlington is, it’s sometimes impossible to get a signal — at least with my phone and computer. So, if you can’t make the game, look for my tweets but know that if they’re not coming on a steady basis, that’s because they’ve migrated to the land of drafts. I will try to find some spot around the field where all get through. This seems to vary game-to-game.
Important notes: There are two important things I want to mention.
The first is a reminder that every reader is invited to e-mail me (email@example.com) with his or her selections for girls soccer all-star teams from Westchester/Putnam and for Rockland. These teams are not The Journal News all-star teams but The Journal News reader-selected all-star teams — a new feature this season.
Thirteen girls will be chosen from your votes for both teams. I’d ask that each person only vote for any one individual once. But you may vote for 13 kids and, unlike the TJN staff-selected team, this doesn’t have to be by position. If you want to vote for five goalies, that’s fine. In addition to players, parents and coaches, friends, neighbors, other family members, officials, school personnel and just plain fans of the game are invited to vote.
If you’ve already voted for a couple of kids but now would like to add a couple more names, that’s fine, too. Just e-mail me the names — no tweeting for this.
Part 2: I’m doing a story for Thursday’s paper on all the seniors in all sports in our area (boys and girls and from private, as well as public schools) who are signing Thursday with Division 1 schools. I will write later on the blog about girl soccer players who will play in college at all levels. But this is a story about all the kids who will go on to play some level of D-I. If you know of someone who is signing with one of these schools this Thursday, please e-mail me (again at firstname.lastname@example.org) by Tuesday with the athlete’s name, school, sport and the name of the school with which he or she is signing. Thanks for your help. –Nancy