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Girls Soccer: ‘Magical’ ride for SWR culminates with first state championship

There is no other feeling like it in the world.

Just ask the Shoreham-Wading River girls soccer team.

As the final whistle sounded Sunday, the Wildcats bolted toward goalkeeper Alison Devall to celebrate reaching the pinnacle of New York high school soccer as Class A champions.

The Wildcats hugged each other, shouted and screamed after capturing a long-sought first state title, having defeated Spencerport, 2-0, at SUNY/Cortland on a cold afternoon.

“I was ecstatic,” said senior midfielder Elizabeth Shields, who connected for the game-winner in the second half. “There is no way of putting that feeling into words. It’s something that you can only feel by being there. That feeling of that we accomplished our goal and we did it to the best that we can do it and leaving that field with no regrets was the best feeling I could possibly have.”

Shields wasn’t alone in her enthusiasm.

“I was so excited because we made history,” said senior midfielder/forward and co-captain Gianna Cacciola, who set up Shields’ goal. “We are the first [Shoreham soccer] team to win the states.”

The Wildcats (17-2-2) have forged one of the finest Long Island girls’ soccer programs but couldn’t reach the state final four until this season. During Adrian Gilmore’s nine years as coach, Shoreham has won eight league titles, reached the county final on four occasions, won three Suffolk County crowns and one Long Island championship, and now has a coveted state championship.

The journey began with a 1-0 non-league defeat to Northport (Class AA) on Sept. 4. Three days later Shoreham bested Kings Park in its first divisional game, 1-0, and the squad never looked back. There was another hiccup along the way, a 2-1 loss at Half Hallow Hills West Sept. 26 before the Wildcats started a 14-game unbeaten streak. They dispatched West Babylon, Hauppauge and Harborfields in the county tournament before defeating MacArthur for the Long Island title.

“It’s something that obviously as a coach we’ve always had our eyes on — winning a Long Island championship, getting a chance to go to states and winning states,” Gilmore said. “It’s so emotional. I played soccer growing up and played in college. I never had a chance as a player to be on that platform. So, to be here as a coach, it was truly so special and amazing. Just so proud of the girls for all their accomplishments, big and small this year.”

Given some top-flight Class A teams, it’s not easy to meander through the postseason.

“There’s a lot of things that can go wrong,” Gilmore said. “From the start of the year, you have to stay healthy. They have to gel as one. Can’t play individually, have to play as a unit. We overcame many things throughout the year, little things. But those little things led to some great things for our team.”

Road to the Title

State Semifinals: Early goal lifts SWR

L.I. Finals: OT win for first title

County Final: SWR earns an ‘A’

County Semis: Strong wind can’t slow down SWR

If there were two qualities that defined the Wildcats, it was an attack that had the potential to score at any time and a tenacious defense. Both were on display this weekend.

On Saturday, junior striker Ashley Borriello tallied two minutes into the match and Shoreham held on for a 1-0 semifinal win over Jamesville-Dewitt.

On Sunday, the Wildcats were stingy on defense and saved their offensive heroics for later.

Shields, who tallied the game-winning overtime goal in the Long Island final, scored with 15:30 remaining in regulation Sunday. Cacciola took a throw-in from Sara Hobbes and raced down the flank before finding Shields just outside the six-yard box. She deposited a volley into the net for a 1-0 advantage.

“As the ball was coming across the six, the only thing entering my mind was this has to hit the back of the net,” Shields said. “I just gave it everything I had.”

Borriello gave the Wildcats some breathing room after the Rangers (16-4-2) brought up their goalkeeper on a last-minute corner kick. Maddy Joannou headed the ball out of the penalty area to Lakin Ciampo, who found Borriello. Borriello sent a 60-yard shot into an unattended net for a 2-0 lead with 40 seconds remaining.

“Running down the field, I just knew we got this,” Borriello said.

She did, much to the excitement and relief of her team.

“Soccer is a funny game,” Gilmore said. “You have to play to the last whistle. Anything can happen. It was nice to get that big clear out by Maddy. She’s been a staple in the back for us the last four years. Just really the heart of the defense, her, Sara Hobbes, Brooke Langella and Alex Constant.”

It put an exclamation point on one special season.

“It was very magical,” Borriello said.

Added Shields, “It was insane. Coming out to winning states is an unreal crazy feeling.”

Photo caption: The Wildcats celebrate a goal. (Credit: Rich Barnes)