“FEAR THE FIN.”
So advised the back of the Eastport-South Manor Sharks’ warmup shirts. But Shoreham-Wading River didn’t show fear in the showdown between two of Suffolk County Division II’s top girls soccer teams Wednesday. On the contrary, SWR attacked, attacked — and then attacked some more.
As the match progressed, visiting SWR asserted more and more control. Despite some close chances, both teams had to settle for a 0-0 tie following 100 exhausting minutes of soccer. When the game ended, the less than enthusiastic reaction of both teams could best be described as akin to being a shrug of the shoulders. A tie is better than a loss, but …
Asked if a goalless draw against a quality team like ESM is an achievement, SWR senior forward Emma Kirkpatrick answered: “No, we want to win. No, we definitely want to play them again and we want to win.”
Afterward, when SWR coach Adrian Gilmore was asked for her reaction to the tie, she made an exaggerated face reflecting her dislike of the notion. “I hate ties,” she said.
This game between Division II’s top two preseason seeds held great promise: defending Suffolk Class A champion SWR (7-1-2, 6-1-2) against ESM (9-0-3, 8-0-2), which reached the Suffolk Class AA final last year. (This year ESM is a Class A team). It featured a matchup of two big scorers — SWR’s Nicky Constant and ESM’s Gia Inzerillo. They both have eight goals and seven assists this season. Both teams also have capable defenses and reliable goalkeepers — SWR’s Alison Devall and ESM’s Carly Travers.
SWR was left to lament some missed opportunities that could have swung the game its way.
Following one of Travers’ nine saves, SWR’s Brooke Langella directed the rebound on goal, but ESM’s Cassidy Passaro cleared the ball away in midair less than four minutes into the second half.
Gilmore said one of the referees told her the whole ball didn’t cross the goal line. At least a couple of SWR players said that was not the case. “It definitely was over the line, but sometimes it doesn’t go your way, so what are you going to do?” said Kirkpatrick.
Then, SWR’s Lydia Radonavitch came within inches of scoring six minutes later, striking a shot that smashed off the left corner of the goalpost and crossbar.
“It was so close,” she said. “Not all of them go in.”
In the final 10 minutes of regulation time, Radonavitch hooked a dangerous shot that Travers did well to save, and SWR’s Frankie Lilly turned on the ball for a left-footed attempt that sailed just wide of the left post.
ESM produced some second-half threats itself. Inzerillo ripped a curling shot that veered left of the mark. Later, she chased after a cross-field pass from Madison Lennon, but Devall kicked the ball expertly aside before Inzerillo could do anything with it.
The game went on, a test of stubborn wills. Legs got heavy. Fatigue settled in.
“The second half we definitely picked it up, and then once overtime came, we all wanted it,” Radonavitch said. “You could tell the fire was under us and we really wanted to put one in the back of the net.”
In the second overtime session, SWR pretty much boxed ESM in its own half of the field, but had nothing to show for it at the end except a hard-fought tie. SWR outshot ESM, 16-7, and Devall made four saves for the team’s eighth shutout, all of which she has been involved in.
SWR has been in fine form this season, its only hiccup being a 1-0 loss to Islip. That was SWR’s first loss to a Suffolk team in two years.
But the Wildcats have rebounded nicely since, posting impressive wins over Bayport-Blue Point, 4-0, and Garden City, 5-0.
“When we play our game, we keep the ball on the ground and we move it,” Kirkpatrick said. “That’s our game and that’s when we’re deadly.”
Gilmore can’t complain. “I feel like they’re playing great soccer,” she said. “They have fire and they have passion and desire, and those aren’t things you can teach.”
The only thing the Wildcats lacked Wednesday was a goal.
Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River’s Emma Kirkpatrick chasing after a ball while being marked by Eastport-South Manor’s Julianna Gullo in the first half. (Credit: Bob Liepa)