But the Class AA title went elsewhere.
North Rockland, which traveled to Cortland with just one loss on the season, fell short to Massapequa 1-0. This was the second straight year that the Chiefs bested the Red Raiders in the state finals by a single goal.
Below is my game story with some extra notes. The photos are by Chris Kitchen. (Above: Red Raider Michaela Morales moves the ball up the field. Middle photo: Amber Alfonzo, l, battles Bianca Furci. Bottom photo: Daniella Devaney carries ball.)–Nancy
CORTLAND At the end of Sunday’s Class AA state championship game, North Rockland coach Vinny Apicella wouldn’t place blame.
Sure, he said, the officials blew a few calls but that was to be expected.
And, yes, the game was very physical and his goalie had been run over a few times.
But “this isn’t dance class,” he said, explaining his team dropped the title game simply because Massapequa had beaten it.
Make that for the second consecutive time – and, again, by one goal.
Meghan McCabe’s first-half goal was the only goal as the Chiefs recorded their sixth straight playoff shutout, defeating North Rockland 1-0 at SUNY Cortland.
The score wasn’t a fluke.
“They played four across (on defense),” Apicella said. “They were like a wall. It was very difficult for us.”
What also made it difficult was that the Chiefs largely also controlled the midfield, beating North Rockland, which is known for its speed and ball-handling, to multiple free balls.
“It’s just a magical thing,” Chiefs coach Bruce Stegner said of repeating as champions. “I can’t say enough about the effort.”
“We had to play quicker, smarter and to feet (instead of passing through the air) and had to look for quick through-balls,” said Red Raiders senior Julianna Cabrera, a five-year varsity member, who was named her team’s game MVP.
North Rockland goalie Jenna Braunagel, who was officially credited with just three saves, had a tremendous game.
Two of her saves were on point-blank shots and early in the second half she dove out at Brianna Rice, who got behind the D on a breakaway. Both players were shaken up on the collision but the ball stayed out of the net.
The loan goal she yielded occurred when McCabe out-fought the defense for the ball, then went in alone.
“She played great,” Apicella said. “She has grown so much throughout the year.”
Notes: Officials let an awful lot go and let the players play — that is until North Rockland’s Amber Alfonzo was given a card near the end of the first half for excessive contact. McCabe was subsequently carded. … Braunagel’s saves included a quick diving stop off a close shot in traffic. Apicella noted Braunagel was banged up the past few weeks. And there’s no doubt Sunday added to her war wounds. She was run into and run over multiple times. But the sophomore later shrugged off the contact, saying, “You’re always bound to get run into.” … Braunagel, who urged her teammates to go on the attack in the closing minutes, shouting, “Push up. Push up,” said the Chiefs were “very compact and tight with their marks,” limiting her squad’s offense. Apicella said of Massapequa, “They were very, very aggressive and won a lot of balls at midfield. They put a very, very high, fast press on us. All of our passes had to be perfect.” … Apicella said the bad calls were a result of miscommunication with a three-man official team. “But that’s not why the goal was scored or the game was won or lost,” he emphasized. … Echoing Apicella’s view of the contact, Stegner said a game between North Rockland and Massapequa “is not for the weak.” … Stegner said he had five players at midfield for the first time this year because he knew North Rockland was very good at center middie. He described his defense as “rock solid.”… Alfonzo, who was enveloped in defenders for most of the game, got off a hard, bad-angle shot in the game’s last minute but Gallagher was at her right post to grab it. … Massapequa entered the game with a very nice but not entirely eye-popping 16-1-3 mark. But included were games against some of the regions top teams, including from New Jersey. “For us, it’s all about preparation (for this). We play the best competition,” Stegner said. … Melanie Hingher, one of the players North Rockland had a tough job getting by, was named her team’s outstanding player. North Rockland’s outstanding player, Cabrera, whose Red Raider resume includes three trips to states, reflected on her time with her club. “I couldn’t ask for a better team. They’re family to me,” she said.