The final result was the same for the Shoreham-Wading River High School girls soccer team, just a whole lot less drama, and the Wildcats were perfectly fine with that.
SWR, coming off a penalty-kick thriller in the Suffolk County Class A quarterfinals, took the preferable route to the county final with a 6-1 semifinal rout of Hauppauge Thursday at Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field in Shoreham.
“Oh, definitely this way better,” SWR senior forward Emma Kirkpatrick replied, when asked whether she would rather win by a blowout or a penalty-kick tiebreaker.
The Wildcats will take the stress-free blowout any time, thank you.
Just two days earlier, on the same field, fourth-seeded SWR had more than its fair share of drama. After falling behind, 2-0, to No. 5 West Babylon, SWR forced overtime when Nicky Constant scored with 27 seconds left in the second half. The Wildcats then prevailed in penalties, with goalkeeper Alison Devall making two saves and Kirkpatrick nailing her penalty to clinch the triumph.
“Last game fueled us,” Constant said. “Coming back from 2-0 [down], it was crazy, and then winning in PKs was just a sign that we deserve to keep going and it showed today that we deserve to be in counties.”
Thursday’s semifinal was so much different. SWR (11-4-2) turned in an overpowering performance, from start to finish, with a season-high goal output. The Wildcats began the match with a heavy dose of Kirkpatrick (one goal, two assists), who was involved in the first three goals. Then, Gianna Cacciola (three goals, one assist) made her mark in the second half. The junior center midfielder put in SWR’s fourth, fifth and sixth goals to wrap things up with an exclamation mark.
“This was by far one of our greatest games,” said Constant, who scored twice herself. “We connected very well to each other. We all shot our shots. It was just amazing.”
Now SWR is looking for something even more amazing. The defending county champion Wildcats are vying for what would be their fifth county championship. They will play No. 1 Islip (11-2-2) in the county final Tuesday at Hauppauge High School. SWR defeated Islip in penalty kicks in last year’s county final before losing to North Shore in the Long Island final. The Wildcats have never won a Long Island crown, according to Newsday.
SWR topped Hauppauge, 1-0, in September on a Constant goal. This time around, the No. 8 Eagles (8-6-3) hardly had time to settle in before they found themselves in a hole. SWR scored on its first two shots.
Then SWR blew the game open with four second-half goals. An insightful pass from Kirkpatrick found Constant, who shook off a defender before putting in a right-footed shot. Cacciola then registered SWR’s next three goals. She made it 5-0 after a blocked shot landed in her path and she launched a high 40-yard effort that slipped in under the crossbar and over goalkeeper Zoe Kaplan’s hands.
“We played our game,” Kirkpatrick said. “We were smart. We kept the ball on the ground. We connected. We communicated. It’s everything that we’ve been working for. It just clicked today.”
Shannon Tuozzo scored for Hauppauge, which was outshot, 15-3. Then Cacciola capped the scoring with 6 minutes and 31 seconds left on an assist from Ava Condon.
SWR fans counted down the game’s final 30 seconds before the Wildcats celebrated.
“Every game we play like it’s our last game, so we just came out strong and we did it,” Constant said. “Everyone was on point today.”
Regardless of the outcome, this was the last game on Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field for SWR’s seniors. But they seemed more concerned about making sure it wasn’t the team’s last game this year.
Cacciola said the Wildcats were highly motivated. “[We] didn’t want to lose,” she said. “We didn’t want to go into overtime again. We didn’t want to go into PKs. We just wanted to win it.”
Kirkpatrick said: “I don’t want this season to end. Knowing how special this team is, I would do anything to not let [the season] go.”
Photo caption: Junior center midfielder Gianna Cacciola, being chased by Hauppauge players, produced three goals and one assist for Shoreham-Wading River. (Credit: Bob Liepa)