Soccer can be a crazy game sometimes.
A team can control the flow of play for 76 minutes, as the Shoreham-Wading River girls did Tuesday, and then a 33-second span can makes things, well, a lot more interesting than they otherwise would be.
SWR held a well-deserved 3-0 lead before host Babylon struck for two late goals. The Wildcats held on for the 3-2 win in the Suffolk County Division II game, the second half of which was played in a thick mist.
Babylon’s Meghan Flaugher dispossessed a SWR defender before chipping a well-placed shot to the far right corner with 3:53 left in the second half. Goalkeeper Alison Devall didn’t have a chance.
It was only moments later when Babylon’s Julia Dunne made it a one-goal game, firing a hard shot over Devall. Those goals came on Babylon’s fourth and fifth shots of the game.
“Honestly, I just thought that we had to hold our ground and just play out the last two minutes because 30 seconds doesn’t define a game,” said SWR senior Elizabeth Shields, who moved from forward to holding midfielder to outside midfielder. “It just happened and we had to get over it, we had to overcome it, and we just had to hold out the rest of the game.”
That they did. First-half goals by Lydia Radonavitch, Shields and Madison Bergen carried SWR (10-2-2, 10-1-2) through.
The Wildcats, who started the day in second place, behind first-place Half Hollow Hills West (12-1, 12-1), will wrap up the regular season Thursday at home to Elwood/John Glenn (10-2-2, 10-2-1).
At this point, SWR is playing for a favorable playoff seeding and home-field advantage in the postseason.
SWR coach Adrian Gilmore, whose team held a 14-5 advantage in shots, said the 3-2 score doesn’t reflect the firm hold the Wildcats had on the match for most of the way, “but I’ll take the win.”
SWR attacked from the start. That’s the way Gilmore likes it.
“I don’t like playing defensive soccer,” she said. “I like playing on the offensive end … even till the last whistle. We say play a full 80 [minutes] and it’s just something we try to believe in.”
The Wildcats were rewarded for that approach as Radonavitch and Shields opened the scoring with goals within 29 seconds of each other. Radonavitch targeted a left-footed shot from outside the penalty area to the low right corner. Moments later, Shields ran onto the ball and connected on a booming blast from about 30 yards out that flew in just under the crossbar for her fourth goal of the season.
Bergen’s persistence and hustle brought SWR a 3-0 lead. She managed to get the ball past onrushing goalkeeper Emma Ward (six saves) before holding off a pursuing defender and tucking in her first goal of the season with 35 seconds left in the first half. Gianna Cacciola assisted.
Then, perhaps somewhat unexpectedly, Babylon (11-4, 10-3) pulled itself back into the match with those late goals.
“It’s really important to hold shape and to maintain positional play and we were out of position, so I think the first goal was a great shot,” Gilmore said. “I think she caught us kind of sleeping defensively. It was a great shot, though. It was upper 90. Most goalies aren’t going to get that. The second ball was, again, out of position. Just a couple of things to work on with our defense.”
Those brief lapses, however, did not erase the good work SWR did before that. The Wildcats had some nice passing exchanges, keeping the ball on the ground.
“I think the girls have played some really great soccer,” Gilmore said. “We really wanted to see good ball movement, get everyone involved, and I really think for 79 minutes we did that.”
Shields said: “Possessions are our biggest thing. We work on that for the longest amount of time at practice because we’re able to go side to side and move up and down with the ball, staying connected and everything, and once you get your possession down, the goals just come right after.”
So, are the Wildcats ready for the playoffs?
“Oh yeah!” attacking midfielder Lakin Ciampo answered. “Ready!”
Photo caption: As Babylon’s Sophia Corrado closes in on her, Shoreham-Wading River’s Ashley Borriello prepares to drill a left-footed shot that goalkeeper Emma Ward saved in the first half. (Credit: Bob Liepa)