Featured Story

Boys Soccer: SWR goals by Caraftis, Daggett are beauties

Smart soccer wins.

Thomas Daggett took that understanding to heart and used his head — literally — as Shoreham-Wading River opened its sixth straight postseason in dramatic fashion Monday night.

A well-executed Daggett header lifted fifth-seeded SWR to a 2-1 sudden-victory overtime triumph over No. 12 Westhampton Beach in a Suffolk County Class A Tournament first-round match. The junior planted his third goal of the season from a ball delivered by Ryan Menno 1 minute, 14 seconds into overtime at fog-covered Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field in Shoreham.

“I won the ball and then I just made a run,” Daggett said, describing his first game-winner for SWR (12-3-1). “I wanted the game to end and I saw an opening in the back. Ryan Menno crossed it and I just finished it, back [of] the net. The best goal of my life. The best feeling. I’m a center back, so I don’t really get to score much, so this feeling is awesome.”

Daggett has a reputation for being good on headers.

“He’s great in the air,” said coach Rob Mancuso.

Daggett’s goal settled a game SWR was unfortunate not to have won in regulation time.

All three of the game’s goals were of high quality. The nicest of them all, unquestionably, came off Owen Caraftis’ right boot. A loose ball floated across the Westhampton Beach goal area to the left side, where it was met by a brilliant Caraftis scissors kick for a 1-0 lead with 3:08 left in the first half.

“The ball got popped up off someone’s head and I just went for it,” said Caraftis.

From left: Samuel Palmer, Tanner Cummings, Nick Nowak, Thomas Daggett and Patrick Morano celebrate SWR’s overtime victory. (Credit: Bill Landon)

The junior center midfielder said he had tried to score on scissors kicks on two prior occasions this season. “I hit the crossbar and the goalie saved the other one,” he said. “I knew the third one just had to go in.”

The Hurricanes’ tying goal was a work of art, too. Kade Murphree played a ball along the left sideline for Ethan Vogt, who drove a centering pass that Chance Brindle put away with an open look at goal. There was not much goalkeeper Kyle Rose could do.

This was clearly not the same Westhampton Beach team that SWR had routed, 7-0, on Sept. 15. Mancuso called Westhampton Beach “honestly, probably one of the scariest lower seeds in the playoffs.” He said, “That goal that they scored is one of the more impressive goals I’ve seen in high school.”

SWR has won nine straight games, six of those shutouts. Over that span, the Wildcats have outcored teams, 39-3.

SWR was unfortunate not to have scored more goals Monday. Early on, Menno looped a ball forward for the onrushing Nicholas Nowak, who slammed a hard shot off the left goalpost.

Westhampton Beach goalkeeper Alex Ajiataz played a superb match, despite taking a kick to his midsection while diving to punch away a ball that deflected off a teammate and was headed toward the low right corner of the goal in the first half. “Their keeper had one of the better games I’ve seen on a high school field,” said Mancuso.

SWR had three golden scoring opportunities in the final 12:30 of the second half: Nowak nudged a ball just feet wide of the right post; Caraftis cranked a shot off a corner kick, only to be denied by a first-class reflex save by Ajiataz; and Daggett met a free kick 43 yards away from goal by Menno with a blast over the crossbar with a little over a minute left in regulation time.

On to overtime, when anything can happen.

“One goal puts your whole season away and we just couldn’t have that happen to us,” said Daggett, one of many SWR players who bleached their hair blond in a show of unity.

SWR had the better of Westhampton Beach (5-10-1) in possession. That was reflected by SWR’s 14-3 superiority in shots and 13-0 advantage in corner kicks.

SWR advances to a quarterfinal Thursday at No. 4 Elwood/John (13-2-1). Glenn was a 6-1 winner over SWR on Sept. 17.

The playoffs are a different animal than the regular season. With the pressure and intensity, everything is magnified — including a coach’s stress level.

Said a relieved Mancuso, “It was fun to watch and I’m sure I’ll feel that way after my heart rate goes down.”