Wednesday, 10 July 2013 00:00
The Manhasset Rebels completed a very rare sweep of two major soccer tournaments by defeating the Sachem Alliance in a penalty shootout at the Long Island Junior Soccer League’s LI Cup Championship. The dramatic victory made for a perfect bookend to the Rebels victory in the Eastern New York Youth Soccer State Cup Final earlier this month. These tournament victories capped a strong overall season for this team, made up of local high school sophomores and freshmen. The roster includes several players that have grown up in Manhasset playing together for the local Manhasset Soccer Club since 1st and 2nd grade. Complimenting this Manhasset-bred core are players from several area towns.
Both the State Cup and the LI Cup demand that teams navigate a series of preliminary round matches before they reach the finals. Reaching one final takes a bit of luck. Reaching two Cup Finals in the same season is very rare indeed.
In early June, the Rebels traveled to La Grange, New York, the site of the Eastern New York (ENY) State Cup Finals. Waiting for them was a familiar foe, the Auburndale Tigers, a team that had bested the Rebels in last year’s ENY Finals. This year was the Rebels’ turn. The match opened up with a high pace and the Rebel keeper, Daniella Ford, was critical to holding Manhasset in the game early on with a series of strong saves. As the match settled into a more back-and-forth style, it was the Rebels that created the best chances. Near the halfway mark of the opening period, Catie Cunningham lofted a perfect cross in from the left corner, that outside midfielder, Caitlin McNamara was able to run onto with precision and she bodied the chest high pass into the right corner of the net. Shortly thereafter, Auburndale tied the match with a strong strike from 20 yards out into the upper corner. The first half ended tied, but it was the Rebels who were creating the best chances. Strong central midfield play from Alex Tatarian, Sam McCormick and Tara Ferraris on both sides of the ball was the keynote for the second half, as the Rebels created several good scoring chances for Kenzie Cohen, Cunningham and Cleo Fleming. A few hit posts and near misses later, McCormick broke through on a great pass from Cunningham and punched a dart into the right corner of the net to give the Rebels the lead for good. Strong backline play from Katherine Markham and Sarah Taylor and midfield play from Daniela Haigian and Allison Schmidt were enough to secure the victory.
On June 15, the Rebels made a trip to Stony Brook University for the LI Cup Championship game and to take on the Sachem Alliance, in a battle of Division 1 foes. This was a hotly contested game, with both teams offering strong resistance to the persistent and high-paced attacks that each club threw at the other. Manhasset drew first blood on a wonderful cross by Lizzie Chester into the six-yard line that was perfectly timed by a streaking and unmarked Cunningham, swooping in from her left striker position. Cunningham placed a perfect one-time touch on the waist-high pass and poked the ball into the right corner. The first half ended with Manhasset in the lead, looking to nail down a clean sheet to secure the victory.
Sachem, however, had other outcomes in mind. They came out in the second half with an altered formation, throwing more bodies forward into the attack and after 20 minutes of sound Rebel defending, the Alliance broke through off a deflected clearing pass from in front of the Manhasset net and the match was knotted at 1.
The remainder of regulation time had both teams throwing all they had at the other. Stout defensive work from the Rebel backline including Sabrina Ferreri, Sara Testa, Isabella Salas-Allende, Markham and Taylor made the difference on the defensive side of the ball and Ferraris, Tatarian, McCormick, Chester, McNamara and Kris Conniff made good work of the midfield to feed strong scoring chances to Cohen and Cunningham on top of the Manhasset attack. Despite the good work, the match ended at full time, tied 1-1.
Two short overtime periods failed to decide the contest, leaving a shootout to reveal the winner. In the shootout, Ford not only stood out, as she stopped two very difficult shots, but she also scored the first Rebel goal. After a wonderful diving stop by Ford on the last of Sachem’s attempts, the Rebels stormed the field to celebrate a 3-2 victory in the shootout and another major title in a very remarkable season.
Trained by Meghan Frey of the LI Rough Riders and coached by Mark Ferraris, the Rebels are looking ahead to other notable successes in the seasons to come.