CORAM — The officials giveth, and the officials taketh.
After disallowing a first-half goal by the Center Moriches Red Devils, a controversial second-half goal was awarded to Center Moriches defender Alexis Parlato following a goalmouth flurry. The goal, with 12 minutes 20 seconds left in the game, stood for a 1-0 victory over the Mattituck Tuckers in the Suffolk County Class B girls soccer final on a bitterly cold Monday evening at Diamond in the Pines.
Parlato’s fifth goal of the season brought top-seeded Center Moriches (15-2), a New York State semifinalist last year, its second straight county championship. In addition, it earned the Red Devils a place in the Southeast Region semifinals. They will play the winner of tomorrow night’s Nassau County final, Carle Place or Cold Spring Harbor, for the Long Island title on Saturday at Dowling College.
It was the third time this year that the League VII champion Red Devils have beaten No. 2 Mattituck (9-5-3). Both regular-season meetings between the two teams ended in 2-0 scores.
Soccer is a simple game. Whoever scores the most goals wins. But sometimes determining what is and what isn’t a goal can be a tricky thing, as was the case on Monday night.
After receiving a pass from Parlato, Claire Brady took a shot that Mattituck goalkeeper Jessica McDonald said bounced off the head of her sweeper, Nikki Zurawski. McDonald got her hands on the ball, but didn’t catch it. The ball slipped behind her and she lunged for it, with her momentum taking her dangerously toward the goal line. The entire ball must cross the line in order for it to be counted as a goal.
McDonald said she was fearful of carrying the ball into the goal herself, so she pushed it back in front of the goal, where it struck Parlato’s knee and bounced back off her knee.
Parlato said McDonald was already in the goal when the ball hit her.
“It really was a goal. I swear to God,” Parlato said. “She knew it, too. The goalie tried to play it off and tried to place it back over the line, but she was already in the net.”
Parlato’s goal, which was given after a linesman consulted with the referee, left the Tuckers irate. Asked afterward if it should have been ruled a goal, McDonald replied: “In my book, I don’t count that as a goal. I count a shot going into the goal as a goal.”
Neither coach had a good angle to tell for sure whether the ball had crossed the goal line, but they both had different takes on it.
“All I know is that unless the ball is really in the back of the net, I don’t think it’s a call that should have been made,” Mattituck Coach Ed Barbante said. “I guess the lineman saw it differently. . . . Obviously, I’m biased because it’s my team, but I don’t think you can end a county final on a call like that. It’s just aggravating. It’s really upsetting. The girls fought their hearts our tonight, and to have it taken away like that is terrible. It’s just a terrible way to lose.”
His counterpart, Lea Brady, said: “I couldn’t definitely say that it was over, however, you give one, you take one. I thought that was a legit goal in the beginning of the first half, and it was taken away.”
Brady was referring to the goal that wasn’t. That came in the 11th minute when Center Moriches looked to have scored through Nikki Rocco, but that goal was disallowed because of a foul call.
But Center Moriches got its reward in the second half when it stepped up its game and applied a lot of pressure in Mattituck’s half of the field.
In the 75th minute, Center Moriches nearly added a second goal when Emma Whittle turned on the ball and sent a deflected shot off the left goalpost.
When the final horn sounded, Center Moriches was a county champion and 13 Mattituck seniors, including star forward Amber Mello, saw their high school playing careers come to an end.
“I thought we played extremely well,” Barbante said. “We were one step away from putting the ball in the back of the net, and we just didn’t get it done.”
Does the controversial nature of the goal detract from Center Moriches’ achievement?
“Absolutely not,” Brady said. “I mean, a goal is a goal. They worked hard for it.”
The Red Devils hope there will be plenty of more goals in their near future as they pursue a return to the state final four.
Parlato said, “We’re ready to go on to bigger things now.”