CLASS C STATE SEMIFINALS | WILDCATS 14, BROTHERS 13
Marisa Romeo cradled the ball her in stick, staring straight ahead at the goal. Eight meters separated her and Shoreham-Wading River goalkeeper Lauren Daly.
Free position, one-on-one. Thirty seconds left.
With her teammates glued to the bench thanks to seven yellow cards, Romeo — a Harvard-committed junior for Christian Brothers Academy of Syracuse — valiantly put her team on her back. Romeo bombarded the Wildcats with five straight goals in a 6-0 run that sliced Shoreham’s 14-7 lead down to one.
Now Romeo had the ball again, a chance to tie the game and complete the unlikeliest of comebacks.
“I was of course nervous,” Daly said. “It was just a surreal moment where I just knew I had to do what I had to do.”
Romeo darted toward the cage as the whistle blew, firing a shot that Daly gobbled up for the biggest save of her career. The Brothers kept possession and Caroline Webster got off one more shot for the Brothers that Daly easily controlled.
The Wildcats threw the ball ahead and ran out the clock on a gut-wrenching 14-13 victory at SUNY Cortland that sends them to Saturday’s Class C state championship against Honeoye Falls-Lima.
[Scroll down for a photo gallery and notes]
“I just said Daly needs to have a big save here,” said Shoreham coach Mary Bergmann. “And she came up with it. She was a little bit sore, her knee was bothering her. But I had the feeling coming down to that last shot that she’s going to make a big save at the end.”
Shoreham advances to the state finals for the fifth time in six years and did so by knocking off last year’s state champion. The Brothers came into the game on an 18-game winning streak, having not lost since the third game of the season, a one-goal defeat to West Genesee, a state semifinalist in Class A.
“We did say we needed to get a cushion to make sure we had that cushion going into the end of the game,” Bergmann said.
The Wildcats needed every bit of it. Shoreham went ahead by seven with 9:33 left when senior Katie Boden scored her third of the game off an assist from Shannon Rosati.
What transpired next was hard to believe.
The Brothers were already two men down after getting assessed a fifth yellow card with 10:57 left. At 5:35 a sixth yellow card came and a seventh at 4:44.
On offense, the Brothers were down to playing three on seven, plus the goalie.
Amazingly, the Brothers kept scoring as the Wildcats were helpless against Romeo even as the double and triple teams surrounded her.
Her final four goals all came on free positions as she continually drew fouls against Shoreham.
“She’s an awesome player,” said Shoreham junior Alyssa Pearce. “We knew that coming into this and we knew she wasn’t going to give up and she did an awesome job.”
While the Wildcats (16-3) had the numbers advantage on the field, they were still even in the middle on draws. And the Brothers kept winning draws, making it difficult for Shoreham to run time off the clock.
“The cards meant nothing at that point,” Bergmann said. “That comes down to you need to win the draw control and bring it down the field.”
Romeo was tremendous all game on draws for the Brothers, negating a typical strength for the Wildcats.
The bevy of yellow cards assessed to Christian Brothers (20-2) helped swing momentum squarely to Shoreham’s side. With 18:59 left in the second half and Shoreham leading 7-6, CBA junior Taylor Poplawski got whistled for her second yellow of the game. One of the top playmakers for the Brothers, Poplawski was forced to watch the rest of the game from the bench. And it put the Brothers down a man for the remainder of the game since it was their fourth yellow card.
That was just the beginning of CBA’s problems. Three more cards followed, each time putting CBA down another player.
CBA coach Doug Sedgwick was obviously upset with the officiating.
“Thought it’s horrific that at this level of a game a team should be penalized (like that),” he said. “They were doing the same thing. I want to give Shoreham-Wading River all the credit in the world. But we couldn’t beat them and the officials.”
Right after Poplawski’s penalty, Shoreham junior Alex Fehmel buried a free position to put the Wildcats ahead by two. Fehmel’s goal started a 7-1 run for Shoreham after the Poplawski penalty.
“When we get runs like that where we just keep scoring we just want to keep doing it and keep scoring,” Pearce said.
As the Brothers kept losing players, Pearce said she thought back to a game last year against Sayville. The Wildcats went down three players in that game and persevered to win.
“We scored more in the second half than the first half so we knew it was possible for any team to come back at any time,” Pearce said.
[nggallery id=384 template=galleryview]
RICH BARNES PHOTOS
–Lauren Lustgarten, Paulina Constant and Jessica Angerman all scored two goals for Shoreham. Alex Fehmel and Shannon Rosati both had one goal and an assist.
–The Wildcats won their ninth straight game at SUNY Cortland. They’re 9-1 all-time at Cortland, losing only in the 2006 semifinals against Skaneateles.
–If Shoreham and West Genesee both win Saturday, the only losses for CBA this year will have come against state champions.
–Angerman scored her first goal on a buzzer-beater to the end the first half. The goal came right after Shoreham had given up a deflating goal with 22 seconds left that allowed the Brothers to tie the game at 5. But Angerman’s goal gave the Wildcats a one-goal advantage going into the second half. It proved to be a big one once the Wildcats only won by a single goal.
–Shoreham trailed only once in the game in the first half at 3-2.
–The Brothers were without midfielder Taylor Gait, who’s signed with Syracuse. Gait tore an ACL for the second time at the beginning of the season and was out for the year. She missed the state tournament last year as well with a torn ACL.
–The Wildcats will face Honeoye Falls-Lima for the third time. Shoreham beat the Cougars in the 2009 finals and 2010 semifinals.
–Honeoye Falls-Lima overcame a 7-2 deficit in the semifinals Friday against Rye to win 12-9. Sage Sarkis scored five goals to lead the Cougars (11-11).