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Girls Soccer: Strong wind can’t slow down Wildcats as they advance to county final

Go figure.

Playing with the wind in the first half of the Suffolk County Class A girls soccer semifinals, Shoreham-Wading River could muster but one goal on Thursday night.

Then faced with wind and gusts in the 30-40 mph range in their face during the second half, the Wildcats struck three times en route to a comprehensive 4-0 home win over Hauppauge.

“It’s funny. That’s the game of soccer. That’s sports,” Shoreham coach Adrian Gilmore said. “Sometimes you have all the right conditions and it doesn’t work out and sometimes when you have to work the hardest it does work out.”

For the second-seeded Wildcats (13-2-2) it was more skill than luck, although they certainly did not turn down the latter against the No. 3 Eagles (10-4). Sara Hobbes, Gianna Cacciola, Ashley Borriello and Madison Bergen scored.

Their prize will be an opportunity for a county championship against eighth-seeded Harborfields at North Babylon High School on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. Harborfields surprised No. 5 Eastport-South Manor in the other semifinal, 1-0, after knocking off top-seeded Half Hollow Hills West in the quarterfinals.

Senior goalkeeper Alison Devall, who recorded Shoreham’s 12th shutout, said she was “nervous and excited,” about the final.

“If we play our game, we should be fine,” she added.

The Wildcats knew what they were getting into. In the first game of a playoff doubleheader at Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field, the girls team watched the boys team battle the wind and its Hauppauge counterparts that turned into a 2-1 overtime defeat for the home side.

“We saw how the wind was such a huge factor,” Gilmore said. “So, we told the girls it was really important to play to feet.”

It took a while for that to sink in.

“We were nervous going into the game,” Cacciola said. “We had something to prove.”

With the wind at their backs in the opening 40 minutes, Shoreham proved it could dominate huge stretches but had problems finding the net until Sara Hobbes headed in Lakin Ciampo’s corner kick at 25 minutes and 26 seconds.

Hobbes said the wind helped her on the goal. “I think it definitely did,” she said. “It swerved in a little bit and I had to make a harder run inside. But Lakin’s kicks are really consistent. They are really always in the same spot no matter with the wind.”

Shoreham, however, feared it might have squandered too many chances with the wind.

“We had a lot of opportunities. We should have put them away,” Borriello said. “It’s not perfect. Some were unlucky.”

Added Gilmore: “The first half was little sloppy, a little kick and chase.”

It wasn’t until a halftime talk by Gilmore reminding how close Shoreham was to achieving one of its goals.

“We’re lucky out of our 11 starters four have been with us for 3 1/2, four years,” she said. “It’s their third trip back to the counties. We reminded them: ‘You can go back to the counties three years in a row. Most high school kids can’t say they did that and we’re 40 minutes away and we have to play hard.’ ”

With the second half only 55 seconds old, the Wildcats were awarded a penalty kick after a hand ball. Sensing that goalkeeper Zoe Kaplan was going to dive to her left, Cacciola drilled it into the middle of the net.

With a two-goal cushion and more confidence, the Wildcats found their game, even if it was against the wind.

“We just were really determined,” said freshman Madison Bergen, whose closed out the scoring by converting a rebound at 59:14. “We moved the ball around as fast as we could.”

“We relaxed. We played simple and on the ground,” said Borriello, who connected off a right-wing cross by freshman Graceann Leonard at 56:28. That goal was aided by the wind a bit, too.

“It looked like it was going to go in and all of a sudden and I saw it was just skimming the post and I ran in and tapped it in,” she added.

Reaching the county final has never gotten old for Gilmore.

“It’s a great feeling,” she said. “The kids work so hard for coach [Brian] Ferguson and I day in and day out. Halloween, we had a great crowd. It’s what you work for all year. The main goal is to get there, to work hard and get to states. I’ve never been there.”

The Wildcats can take a giant step toward those goals on Tuesday.