Shoreham-Wading River is hardly a long shot to advance deep into the high school girls soccer playoffs, yet it was a long shot that enabled the Wildcats to clear their first postseason hurdle.
Just 37 seconds into Tuesday’s Suffolk County Class A quarterfinal at Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field in Shoreham, the ball fell to Kya Condon’s feet about 35 yards from Comsewogue’s goal. The senior center midfielder essentially thought to herself, “Why not?”
Condon hammered a booming blast from straight on that soared high. Goalkeeper Emma Norton got a hand to it, but not enough to prevent the powerful shot from reaching the upper left corner.
Despite top-seeded SWR’s efforts to add to the score, that was the game’s only goal.
SWR 1, Comsewogue 0.
“I saw like the opening and my teammate Maddie Bergan, I know she like started ducking” to get out of the way, Condon said. “She [knew] I was going for it.”
The shot had goal written all over it from the start.
“As soon as she shot it, I knew it was going in,” said Ava Gengler, who played striker and center midfield for League IV champion SWR (14-2-1).
Condon said: “We were all mentally like we’re going in, we’re gonna kill ourselves for our teammates and for like everybody, so I was in like a mental state like I wasn’t even on the field. It felt like honestly an out-of-body experience, like just go, go, go, go!”
And SWR is going. The Wildcats will host No. 5 Eastport-South Manor (12-3-2) in a semifinal Friday. SWR had defeated ESM on the same field Oct. 17, 2-0.
Because SWR is the No. 1 seed, it has the rare opportunity to win a county championship on its home field. Shoreham will host the county final Nov. 1.
“I don’t want it to be a curse, I want it to be a blessing,” said SWR coach Mike Gengler, whose nieces Ava and Mia Gengler play on the team.
Still, even the No. 1 seed has to deal with the pressures that come with the playoffs. At this stage, every team is good.
“That’s the consensus across the board,” Mike Gengler said. “If you’re in it’s because you belong.”
“A seeding is just a seat at the table,” he added. “Everybody’s fighting not to end their senior season. And you know, we have nine seniors that are saying, ‘We’re not done,’ and you know, they’re showing up.”
They showed up Tuesday. Although the score didn’t reflect it, SWR urgently pushed hard for an insurance goal, but never got it.
A good deal of the reason for that was Norton’s goalkeeping. She made nine saves, and there were quality stops among them. The diving Norton did well to parry aside a shot by Annie Sheehan, made a great stretching save on Ava Gengler and denied Bergan on the doorstep.
“An amazing keeper showed up today,” Mike Gengler said. “I have to say their goalie, Emma, had one of the best keeper showings I’ve seen in almost 20 years of coaching. She kept them in that game.”
Ava Gengler drilled a shot off the crossbar in the 51st minute.
SWR outshot No. 8 Comsewogue (10-5-2), 22-3.
Comsewogue’s best chance was snuffed out when goalie Morgan Lesiewicz smothered an attempt by Maria Stamatopoulos. The SWR back line of Jessica Nastasi, Grace Hillis, Sheehan and Abigail Beran saw to it that Lesiewicz didn’t need to make more than two saves.
“Every single one of these teams, they don’t come out here not wanting to win,” Condon said. “It’s very rough like that. It’s just who wants it more and who’s going to get it done?”
How neat would it be for SWR to win a county title on its own field?
“I played here,” Mike Gengler said. “I coached here with my brother. It’s never lined up like this before in 25 years.”
He said his players have “been together a long time. A lot of underclassmen are learning from the upperclassmen and, you know, we’re putting another coin in the merry-go-round of tradition.”