At the end of every game, MacArthur goalkeeper Lexie Thompson takes a moment to acknowledge the opposing team’s keeper.
She takes pride in the small gesture, knowing the players share a unique perspective on the field.
“I’m the only one that knows what their position is like and how physically tasking it is,” she said.
So at the end of Saturday’s Class A Long Island final, Thompson continued the tradition and jogged to the Shoreham-Wading River bench to give a pat to sophomore Morgan Lesiewicz.
SWR senior Kya Condon saw Thompson and yelled out, “Keeper, good job.”
At the end of a physical contest, it was a moment for the players on each team to acknowledge the hard work that had gotten them to this point, vying for a chance to advance to the state semifinals in Cortland.
It was Thompson, a senior bound for the University at Buffalo who has been playing soccer for as long as she can remember, that was the key reason it will be the Generals moving on in the Class A state tournament. Thompson withstood heavy pressure in the first half, including making two acrobatic saves seconds apart in one sequence, to keep SWR scoreless.
An early first half goal was all MacArthur needed to prevail 1-0 at Berner Middle School in Massapequa to end the Wildcats’ remarkable season.
Falling behind early was hardly ideal against a team as strong defensively and with as talented a goalkeeper as Thompson. The Generals (14-0-2) have allowed just one goal all season, which came in a 1-1 draw against Garden City in October.
“They’re all so talented,” Thompson said of the team’s back line. “They all have something special.”
Thompson was credited with 11 saves, eight of which came in the first half.
The only goal came with 28:28 left in the first half on a shot by Sara Kealey. It was a play the Wildcats (15-3-1) would have liked to have back. Lesiewicz raced out of the net to reach a ball, and after the Wildcats stopped an initial shot, they couldn’t clear the zone and a deflection put the ball back on Kealey’s foot. This time, she got off a clean shot and didn’t miss as Lesiewicz tried to get back in position.
SWR coach Mike Gengler said the Wildcats rarely had to play from behind this season, particularly in a game of this stakes.
“Their keeper is top notch, a top-shelf keeper,” he said. “She really kept them in this game. That’s what you need.”
The Wildcats controlled possession for much of the first half and had perhaps their best chance with just under 12 minutes to go in the first half when Abigail Beran’s shot was saved, and then Thompson made a second leaping stop right afterward.
“There’s no better feeling than making a save like that,” Thompson said. “Multiple in a row just makes it that much better.”
The second save in the sequence set up a corner kick, but the Wildcats couldn’t generate a good chance. On the ensuing goalkick, the ball came right to Ava Gengler of Shoreham, whose pass left to GraceAnn Leonard gave the Wildcats another chance that was thwarted by Thompson.
Ava Gengler had a chance for an equalizer with about six minutes left when she had a header that went high over the goal after the pass from Leonard.
Mike Gengler said the Generals did a good job at preventing the Wildcats from gaining angles of attack.
“They did their homework for sure,” he said. “They knew who they were expecting. And you add a tough keeper to that situation, I don’t think it mattered who from them today, it was just a matter of when.”
The Wildcats were vying for their first Long Island title since 2019, when they won the Class A state championship. MacArthur now advances to play Albertus Magnus of Section 1 Saturday in the state semifinals. It was the first Long Island title for the Generals since 2011 when they won as a Class AA school.
Mike Gengler, who filled in as head coach in Adrian Gilmore’s absence after she had a baby, said he was “blessed for the opportunity” to coach this year, especially considering his two nieces were on the team.
“The girls rose to the occasion and it was just an amazing year,” he said. “Every one of these players were special.”
The Wildcats had nine seniors, six of whom were starters.
“Learning to come back without those nine players is certainly going to be the biggest challenge for Shoreham-Wading River,” he added. “But we do have a lot of players that are eager that got an opportunity to see what it’s like and what it takes to be in these types of games.”