PANTHERS 3, WILDCATS 2
Andrew Moschetti gathered his players on the sideline to deliver one final message before the players departed following Tuesday afternoon’s game against Miller Place.
Moschetti, the coach of Shoreham-Wading River, offered the age-old rally cry: “It’s not over!” he said to the players.
By that, he was referring to the team’s playoff chances. At the beginning of the game, the Wildcats needed two wins in their final four games to make that a reality. By the end, a tough 3-2 home loss, their margin had shrunk by one game, and made it even more daunting provided the team must now play league-leader East Hampton tomorrow on the second day of a back-to-back.
“I’m happy with the way the boys played,” Moschetti said. “If they play like this, hopefully we get that opportunity to get into the first round of the playoffs, which would be nice after missing last year.”
Both teams had their chances Tuesday in an evenly played, competitive match that came down to the very last shot.
Miller Place scored in the 76th minute to break the 2-2 tie. Miller Place junior Derek Bayer beat a Shoreham defender at the right side of the box, giving him an angle to kick the ball inside the right post and beat goalkeeper Matt Kirby.
The Wildcats had one last chance in the final seconds to send the game into overtime. Marc Ceruti lined up a direct kick from about midfield. He served a ball toward the box, where Dan Mahoney managed to control it and get off a clean shot from the right side. The ball ricocheted off the crossbar, missing a goal by inches, with about three seconds left on the clock. The ball bounced harmlessly away from the goal as the final second ticked off the clock.
“A couple inches lower, we’d be playing right now still,” Moschetti said. “But that’s the way soccer is.”
The loss dropped the Wildcats to 4-5 in League VI with three games remaining. Miller Place improved to 4-4-1, boosting its chances for a spot in the playoffs. East Hampton comes into tomorrow’s game with an 11-1-2 overall record.
The Wildcats handed Miller Place a 3-0 loss when the teams first met a month ago. But the Panthers have turned their season around since then. They’ve now gone 4-0-1 in their last fives games. Included in that streak was a tie against East Hampton.
“They needed this just as much as we needed this and we knew it was tough,” Moschetti said.
The Wildcats led 1-0 early in the game on a goal by Dan Blake that was set up by a corner kick from Peter Stirpe. The lead was short-lived as Miller Place tied the game four minutes later when Douglas Minogue scored on a terrific header near the far post on a corner kick.
The Panthers took their first lead in the 28th minute after a Shoreham turnover deep in its own zone. Jacob Wente got a clear lane to the goal, leaving him one-on-one with Kirby in goal. Wente patiently dribbled in, waiting for Kirby to commit, before calmly booting the ball into the net.
The Wildcats quickly answered with a goal from Mahoney on a quick transition play. Doug DeMaio sent a great pass from the middle of the field to Mahoney for a one-timer.
“Danny’s been playing pretty well,” Moschetti said. “Every team knows that, so it’s not like it’s a surprise anymore.”
Even if the Wildcats fall to East Hampton, there’s still hope. The Wildcats will travel to Amityville Friday, a game that in years past would appear an easy win. But the Warriors have turned the program around and are in second place in the league at 6-3.
The Wildcats close out the season against Bayport-Blue Point (2-6) next Tuesday in what could shape up to be a playoff-like game.
“Really, the season comes down to Friday against Amityville,” Moschetti said.