SOUTHEAST REGION CLASS C FINAL | HAWKS 1, FIRST SETTLERS 1 (HAWKS WIN IN PKS, 3-1)
Asked to sum up his Southold High School boys soccer team’s season, coach Andrew Sadowski needed only one sad word. “Short,” he said.
As in too short.
The First Settlers had hoped to extend their season another week with a place in the New York State Class C semifinals, but it wasn’t to be. They were denied by two dreaded words: penalty kicks.
Soccer’s version of Russian roulette denied the First Settlers of a place in the state final four Saturday night when they were defeated, 3-1, in the tiebreaker by Rhinebeck of Section IX in a Southeast Region final. The match went to penalty kicks after the teams played to a 1-1 draw through 110 minutes of soccer at Diamond in the Pines in Coram.
“This was such a great game where both sides really fought hard,” Rhinebeck coach Justin Wiesenthal said. “After such an intense game, it’s really a tough situation for the team that doesn’t pull it out. Fortunately, we were on the right side.”
Ian Katomski, Ryan Euell and Eric Rodriguez converted their penalty kicks in succession and Spencer Hutchins made a save during the tiebreaker for Rhinebeck (18-1), which advances to a state semifinal at Middletown High School on Saturday. The Hawks, who had lost regional finals to Long Island teams the past two years, will be making their first appearance in the state final four.
“We jumped a hurdle,” said Wiesenthal.
The First Settlers (12-6) came within inches of preparing for that trip upstate themselves. Early in the first overtime period, Southold’s Anderson Garcia drove a blazing shot that Hutchins managed to deflect off the crossbar.
“We hit the crossbar,” Sadowski told reporters. “We put three shots at the goalkeeper. It’s been one of the struggles that we’ve been having all year.”
But Sadowski praised the play of his team. “We played outstanding,” he said. “Our defense was fabulous.” Referring to an off-sides trap that led to Rhinebeck being whistled 29 times for off-sides, Sadowski said: “It worked beautiful. They did a great job. I could not have asked them to play any harder, to play any different.”
Southold forward Joseph Worysz was taken aback by Rhinebeck’s continual attempts to beat Southold up the middle with balls sent through the air. “I thought they would play a lot more possession and not more over the top,” he said. “I guess it was the other way around.”
When told of the 29 off-sides calls against Rhinebeck, Southold forward Shayne Johnson said: “I lost count. Our defense stepped up really big today.”
Both goals came in the second half.
A defensive lapse allowed Rhinebeck to pull in front at 46 minutes 44 seconds. A free kick by Aiden McKibbin-Vaughn sent an unmarked Laurence Graziano in on an open path to the goal. Graziano, coming off a hat trick in his previous game, had all the time he needed to shoot past goalkeeper John Charles Funke.
“We went down in many games this year for some silly reason or silly mistake,” Sadowski said. “Today we went down on a silly mistake. We were caught flat-footed.”
Southold’s reply came in the form of a lethal right-footed shot by Worysz, assisted by Garcia, at 62:23. It was the 13th goal of the season for Worysz, who put all three of his shots on goal and had 43 touches.
The goal gave the First Settlers new life.
Wiesenthal spoke highly of Southold, calling it a “great team. We actually came in and really underestimated them. They’re very well-coached. They’re very skilled, very fast; that was the thing that we noticed right off the bat. They’re a very, very fast team, so we had our hands full.”
Both sides had a chance to pull ahead before regulation time ended. Funke came up big with a save after Katomski found the speedy Chris Marvin with a through ball in the 67th minute. Then, following a Worysz corner kick in the 79th minute, the ball bounced out of the penalty area toward Southold’s Ryan DiGregorio, who nailed a shot that deflected wide of the left goal post.
The penalty-kick tiebreaker started well enough for Southold when Sean Moran sent his shot in for a 1-0 lead. But things soon turned Rhinebeck’s way. After Rodriguez netted his attempt for the clincher, the joyous Hawks raced toward their fans to celebrate.
The First Settlers looked devastated. Some hugged each other. Some just squatted. The loss marked the end of a journey for them that actually started in February, with the team not only playing indoor soccer but also playing outdoors on an ice hockey rink.
The disappointment of defeat aside, Johnson said it was fulfilling advancing to the regional final.
“I don’t think anyone on our team should feel unsuccessful after this result because … we are still county champs and made it here,” said Johnson, who led the team with 15 goals this year. “We’re still a family basically. There’s still an upside to it.”
Rhinebeck prevailed despite its off-sides troubles and despite being outshot, 15-6. Regardless, the final result promised the Hawks a happy three-and-a-half-hour bus ride home.
Said Wiesenthal, “We had a good time on the island this year.”