One very long year.
But Sunday North Rockland will get another shot to prove it’s the best Class AA team in New York State.
And, sweetly, the Red Raiders will play the team that kept that title from them a year ago.
North Rockland will face defending champion Massapequa of Section 8 at 9:30 a.m. at SUNY Cortland.
Below is my story on North Rockland’s state semifinals win over Bethlehem Central with some extra notes. The photos are by Chris Kitchen.
DRYDEN Last year was about heartbreak.
The North Rockland girls soccer team plans to write a different ending Sunday.
The Red Raiders edged surprising Bethlehem Central (Section 2) 1-0 at Tompkins Cortland Community College Sunday to advance to Sunday’s Class AA state championship game.
North Rockland will play the winner of Massapequa (Section 8).
Last year, Massapequa beat the Red Raiders 2-1, with a late goal in the finals. Bethlehem Central, who had a Cinderella playoff run after being seeded sixth in Section 2, had no late threats.
In fact, it had few chances. North Rockland goalie Jenna Braunagel made just three saves.
Her counterpart, Miranda Manziano, had nine saves and beat North Rockland to several loose balls.
The one shot she couldn’t stop came with 4:38 in the first half off a corner kick. Players from both teams jumped to head Taylor Aylmer’s cross but missed the ball, which landed at Amber Alfonzo’s feet.
Alfonzo didn’t miss.
“I just volleyed it,” Alfonzo said.
North Rockland controlled 90 percent of the action. The Eagles’ best chance came with 17:37 left in the first half when Madison Ehring’s free kick from 30 yards out just went over the crossbar.
“It’s been an amazing run,” Eagles coach Tom Rogan said. “In many ways it continued today but we were overmatched a bit.”
North Rockland dominated the time of possession, using the whole width of the field to effectively move the ball.
“We tried to keep creating opportunities,” Aylmer said. “A lot of us have been playing together for a couple of years now. We know where each other is.”
“We need to play tomorrow like we did today and possess the ball,” North Rockland coach Vinny Apicella said. “Our players looked very, very sharp with the exception of scoring. But if we play like this, those goals will come.”
Alfonzo is optimistic.
“I think we want it a lot more this year. We’re not ready to lose again,” she said.
Notes: The weather — cold and, early on, with flurries — didn’t help Naya Rivera’s famed, long throw-ins. She acknowledged her hands were cold — actually numb — making it difficult to get everything she could on the ball. Still, she had a nice throw halfway through the second half and Alfonzo got a shot off it but Manziano made the save. … After Rivera (top photo, 3, with the Eagles’ Andrea Saxe, 6) was run over in the second half, North Rockland was awarded a free kick from about 30 yards out. Julianna Cabrera took it and put a nice shot on net but Manziano went up and tipped the ball over the net. … The game, like Somers game against Jamesville-DeWitt, was very physical. At one point, Rivera was pushed to the turf (no call) and appeared hurt. But she stayed in the game and three minutes later was whistled for a push. … Arianna Marino (below, number 15) had a heck of a game on defense for the Red Raiders before leaving with 4:05 left after appearing to strike her head on the artificial turf. After the game, she said she was okay. … Rogan said his game plan was for his team to play “very deliberate soccer” and “hopefully counterattack.” … Apicella noted he isn’t afraid to make subs, saying, “We have good players waiting on the bench. They know what they’re doing.” … Aylmer credits North Rockland’s return to the finals in part to, “Our younger players definitely showing a lot of heart.”