Previous Shoreham-Wading River High School girls soccer teams may not have had just the right combination of assets the current Wildcats have. The heart. The skill. The defense. The togetherness.
And now the current Wildcats have something none of their predecessors ever had: a Long Island championship.
Elizabeth Shields’ goal one minute and 43 seconds into overtime proved to be the game-winner as SWR rallied for a 2-1 Class A victory over MacArthur and its first Long Island title Saturday at Berner Middle School in Massapequa.
The SWR bench hopped with excitement as the final 10 seconds of the second mandatory 10-minute overtime were counted down. Then, as time expired, the Wildcats raced to goalkeeper Alison Devall and piled on top of each other. Coach Adrian Gilmore and assistant coach Brian Ferguson hugged and then Ferguson delivered an emphatic fist pump.
For the first time in its history, SWR (15-2-2) will play in a state semifinal against Mohonasen or Jamesville-DeWitt Saturday at SUNY/Cortland at 3 p.m.
“My heart’s racing right now,” Shields said. “I’m just so excited to go upstate and being the first Shoreham team to actually get there is just like an insane thought.”
SWR striker Ashley Borriello said, “I don’t even have any words, it was so exciting.”
SWR had been to Long Island finals before, most recently two years ago, only to be disappointed each time. That is, until Saturday.
For the second straight playoff game, SWR overcame a 1-0 deficit, showing its fighting spirit.
Shields snapped a 1-1 tie, capping a sequence in which SWR carved into the MacArthur defense. It started with Gianna Cacciola cutting the ball across the penalty area. Borriello collected the ball near the left endline, drawing defensive attention. From there she dropped a pass back for Shields, who tucked it into an unguarded net.
Shields said, “It was just keeping up that pressure in the attacking third and just keeping the ball on their half and not letting any stupid mistakes happen, and I think we pulled that off pretty well.”
A nice passing buildup also led to SWR’s first goal, by Lakin Ciampo 6:40 into the second half. Olivia Deroches passed to Cacciola, who found Ciampo before she turned on the ball and fired.
MacArthur (15-2-2), a Long Island champion in 2011, had struck first through Kara DeBlaiso at 15:08. Tara Sweeney’s left-wing service found DeBlaiso in a dangerous position for a 1-0 lead. Devall was apparently kicked in the face on the play and after being looked at was required by rule to be substituted for. Shields headed into goal momentarily. After the ensuing kickoff, MacArthur, in a sportsmanlike gesture, purposefully kicked the ball out of bounds so Shields could quickly return to goal.
“Just that relentlessness, never giving up, the believing,” Gilmore said, “You can see it just in the way that they played. They don’t give up. It’s easy to be up and stay up. It’s hard to come back, especially in a high-level game.”
SWR held a 14-1 shots advantage in the second half, but was unable to pull in front before overtime.
Overtime is nothing new to SWR. “We’ve been in overtime situations before,” said Cacciola.
Overtime has proven to be their time. They are 3-0-2 in overtime games this year.
Devall made three of her five saves in overtime, including a nice sprawling effort, pushing aside Madison Hnis’ nasty 25-yard free kick.
But SWR’s defense of sweeper Maddy Joannou, outside backs Alexa Constant and Sara Hobbes and stopper Brooke Langella held tough. Defense has been a staple for SWR. The Wildcats have conceded only nine goals this year (two in the playoffs) while scoring 40.
“We’re always working hard,” Borriello said. “I think on the field, even when we are down one-zero, I think that we are all still confident that we can still put the ball in the back of the net.”
For Borriello, the day was extra special. Her 16th birthday just happened to be on the biggest day in the history of SWR girls soccer.
“It’s her best birthday ever,” said Joannou.
And not a bad day for the Wildcats as a whole as they are headed to Cortland next.
“I was just so excited and relieved that we finished it out, and we finished it out strong,” said Shields.
What was that final countdown like for Gilmore?
“It just felt so good,” she said. “I’m in the [school] gym all the time. I look at those banners and we laugh. I’m like, ‘I need an LIC [Long Island championship]. I need an LIC.’ The Shoreham banner has been blank for girls soccer for Long Island championships.”
Not for much longer.
Photo caption: The Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats celebrate after Elizabeth Shields’ goal 1:43 into overtime gave them a 2-1 lead over MacArthur in the Long Island Class A final at Berner Middle School in Massapequa. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)