Below are my story and notes about the game. Photos are by Chris Kitchen. –Nancy
DRYDEN The clock wasn’t on Somers’ side. An undefeated season was slipping away and, worse, hopes for a state title.
But then sophomore Jenna Menta did something few Tuskers were able to do for the first 71-plus minutes of their Class A state semifinal game Saturday against Jamesville-DeWitt. Menta, who took the ball away from the Red Rams before midfield, raced down the right sideline on at the Tompkins Cortland Community College soccer field with one of Jamesville-DeWitt’s speeding defenders to her inside. Somewhere inside the 10-yard line, she found another gear and got a step, then ripped off a high crossing pass almost on net.
And, seemingly out of nowhere, there was Hannon Eberts, flying through the air and getting her right foot on the ball and sending it home. The goal, with 8:29 left, tied the score. at 1
And with 5:47 left, sophomore Melina Cousiz scored what proved to be the winner on a penalty kick after a Tusker was taken down in the box.
With the 2-1 win, the Tuskers (21-0) advanced to Sunday’s championship game against Rockville Centre South Side (Section 8). The title game will be played at 12:15 p.m. at SUNY Cortland.
“We kept pounding and pounding, and, eventually, the time just came and we put some goals in,” Menta said.
The previously-undefeated Red Rams (21-1) had gone up 1-0 with 11:46 left in the first half when Erin Brinley’s low, 25-yard free kick sneaked through Somers goalkeeper Lizzy Hanley (three saves).
Somers dominated throughout much of the second half but rarely penetrated the Red Rams’ defense. And when it did, goalie Madeline Frank (six saves) was there to stop it.
In fact, Frank robbed Menta, leaping high to deflect her shot over the crossbar with 16:32 left. But Somers kept pouring on the pressure before Menta poured life into the Tuskers’ season.
“A great individual effort really made that goal happen. She willed it to happen,” Tuskers coach Paul Saia said of Menta.
“I’m so proud of these girls,” he added. “They never gave up. They never panicked. They just hung tough and when the opportunity came, they capitalized.”
Notes: Menta said she has played soccer her whole life. Maybe that’s why the sophomore was so cool down the stretch, with Somers trailing and time running down. “You can’t be stressed but calm and composed,” she said. “It’s scary but being stressed is not going to help.” … Menta’s sister, Melissa, who now plays for NYU, played in the state championship with Jenna in the stands. … It was initially unclear whether the first goal belonged to Menta or to Eberts and there’s a chance the ball would have gone in without Eberts making sure that it did. Eberts said she immediately thought the ball was going in but sprinted as hard as she could to it because she wasn’t sure. … Somers senior Michelle Wienecke (top photo) had a great game. The senior was responsible for creating a lot of the Tuskers’ offense from its defensive zone. … Early plays often go overlooked when games are recalled. But Alexis Prisco’s defensive stop on Paige Sherling in the first four minutes of the game shouldn’t be. It might well have saved a season-changing goal. … Frank was very strong in net for the Red Rams and she came up with a terrific save on Melissa Righetti 10 minutes into the second half. After initially making a very good stop, she scrambled on the ground for the rebound. … Couzis is no stranger to burying penalty kicks when it counts. Her PK was the difference in Somers’ sectional win over Pearl River. “We’ve been practicing penalty kicks every day,” Eberts said. “Melina almost always gets them in. She has complete confidence in herself and that’s a huge, huge plus.” … Eberts, a junior who is playing her third season on varsity, said the Red Rams’ defense was among the strongest Somers has played this season. Saia described their D as “very fast, very smart.” … Asked about his thoughts with his team trailing 1-0 late, Saia smiled and said, “I was slightly concerned.” But he added, “I knew if we put one in there was no way we’d walk away without a win.”