The Shoreham-Wading River girls soccer team has been so dominant this season that it only had to overcome a deficit twice.
In the Suffolk County Class A final Wednesday night, the Wildcats were called on to accomplish that feat twice under extreme pressure.
During regulation time, Nicky Constant’s second-half goal erased a 1-0 deficit to force overtime at Islip High School.
In the penalty-kick shootout, the Wildcats were down to their final shot, equalized and captured their first county crown since 2014, winning the tiebreaker, 6-5, after playing to a 1-1 draw after 110 minutes — 80 of regulation and another 30 of overtime.
“Tonight’s game was a great game,” coach Adrian Gilmore said. “They were able to come back, keep their composure and I’m just so proud of them.”
There were plenty of players to be proud of. Goalkeeper Lydia Kessel stopped a penalty kick during regulation. Emma Kirkpatrick converted a vital equalizing PK in the shootout on the Wildcats’ last attempt in the opening round of five. And freshman Ashley Borriello put her attempt in to give Shoreham the lead before Hannah Franco hit the crossbar on Islip’s final attempt.
The Wildcats (18-0-1) will face the Nassau County champion for the Long Island Class A title at Bethpage High Sunday at 12:30 p.m. Islip finished at 16-2-1.
“It’s amazing,” Wildcats tri-captain Kessel said. “Islip’s such a great team but having to come in on their home turf, we knew it was going to be hard. Their fans are really into it. I’m so proud of my team. I knew we had the ability to win.”
During the first five PKs, the teams battled to a 4-4 deadlock. Constant, Rikki Alessi, Frankie Lilly and Kirkpatrick put home their tries for Shoreham while Lakin Ciampo drilled hers wide left.
Then came sudden-death penalties.
Beforehand, Constant gave her teammates some sage advice:
“I told them that if you go low into the corner there’s no way the goalie could stop it,” she said.
Sara Hobbes placed her shot over the crossbar before the Buccaneers’ Hailey Franco hit the football goalpost. After Shoreham’s Elizabeth Shields and Islip’s Madison Micheletti traded conversions, Borriello cashed in on hers. She heeded Constant’s advice, firing her attempt in the lower left corner.
“I feel like during penalty kicks I always stress myself out,” Borriello said. “This time, I felt something. I felt I was going to get it in.”
Kessel, who has been involved in more than her share of penalties in a standout high school career, had plenty of confidence in the underclassman.
“I think four-year players, even in college, people have trouble in the PKs,” she said. “For her to go in and taken that final PK, I’ve been impressed with her since the first day of [practice]. I had confidence in her. I knew she was going to sink it.”
Islip dominated the early going before the drama riveted up in the second half. Only 30 seconds in, Hannah Franco was taken down in the penalty area. Dominique Bono took the penalty, firing toward the middle of the net, but Kessel held her ground.
“I actually thought she was going to my left,” Kessel said. “I saw the way she looked and I thought she was going left. And then at the last second, something was like, hesitate, hesitate and I hesitated. Before I knew I blacked out and I had the ball in my hands.”
That was fine with Gilmore.
“That could have been a total game-changer,” she said. “She’s a phenomenal goalie. That shows why she has been Suffolk County’s most valuable player, why she’s been all those great things.”
Franco, however, found the net, rifling home a shot into the upper right corner with 27:17 left in the second half for a 1-0 lead.
Shoreham regained the lead as Constant headed home Erin Triandafilis’ left-wing cross past goalkeeper Kelsey Scheidel with 14:44 remaining.
“It’s just a mindset,” Constant said about overcoming a deficit. “You have to pick yourself and believe that you can score again. Tying it is just the game-changer. You can do it again.”
By a quirk of the schedule, the Class A final was scheduled for Islip. While it was the Buccaneers’ home field, the Wildcats were considered the “home” team because they were seeded No. 1.
Gilmore said Shoreham had lost the only two games it has ever played at Islip last year.
She said, “My message to the girls was: Go out there, play your game, play hard, you’re wearing your home jerseys and show them why we’re the No. 1 seed.’ ”
Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River players celebrate the team’s first county championship in three years. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)