Next stop, Cortland.
The Southold/Greenport girls continued their historic and magical season Friday by reaching the New York State Class C soccer tournament for the first time.
Grace Syron and Jill Golden scored second-half goals to help the First Settlers erase a halftime deficit and register a 2-1 Southeast Regional triumph over Haldane High School at Diamond in the Pines in Coram.
They will participate in a semifinal game in upstate New York on Saturday, Nov. 11.
Golden, who tallied the game-winner on a penalty kick, said she felt “bliss, amazement.”
“I don’t believe it. I do believe it,” the junior added with a smile. “We made history. We’re the first [Settlers girls’ soccer] team to go to states. I just feel energetic. I had this adrenaline rush like I can do anything. I feel like a million bucks.”
So did her teammates.
“I talked during preseason and this is what I said our goal was,” said center back and co-captain Annie Lincoln. “First of all, it was counties. It’s been 30 years since we won counties. It just kind of snowballed. We’re going to states and it’s just unbelievable.”
Added Syron: “I cannot be more happy. I’ve never been more excited in my life. The feeling of getting to go with the team I’ve been working with so long just means the world to me.”
After celebrating on the field, the entire team ran toward the sidelines to hug coach Chris Golden.
“I couldn’t be more happy for these girls right now,” he said. “At the beginning of the season, I thought we had a special group that could surprise some people. You know what? This is the culmination of a lot of hard work. A good group of kids.”
During a frustrating first half, it didn’t look like Southold would feel that elation. Despite dominating the opening 40 minutes and outshooting a young Blue Devils (7-11-2) team — that had only three seniors in their starting lineup — the Settlers found themselves trailing 1-0.
On a rare foray deep into the Southold end, sophomore striker Jade Villella weaved through the defense before shooting from atop the penalty area past goalkeeper Hayley Brigham to give the Section I team a surprising lead on its first shot of the game with 17 minutes and 42 seconds remaining in the half.
“She just weaves really well and we were lunging and we shouldn’t have been doing that,” Lincoln said. “Hats off to her. She was awesome.”
At halftime, the Settlers (14-4) regrouped.
“Personally, I was frustrated, but also the team I knew we were winning every ball, dominating,” said Jill Golden, who endured another physical game. “It was if we were winning. No team has shut us out. I wasn’t worried about us tying it or getting another once we figured it out.”
That happened with 31:08 left in the second half when Syron, who had three shots saved in the first half, found the range as she drilled a 20-yard shot past keeper Abigail Platt to equalize with her 18th goal this season.
Syron said she was thinking of her shot “just don’t go over the goal again.”
“As soon as I made it, it was honestly the biggest feeling of relief I had this whole game,” she said. “Thank gosh I was able to pull it together and get it in.”
Five minutes later, Jill Golden got a measure of revenge from the rough play after she was pushed down to the ground in the box for a penalty kick.
Golden fired her penalty kick to the lower left corner with 26:09 to go to register her 33rd goal, which leads all girls’ goal-scorers on Long Island.
“I was nervous, but also confident,” Golden said. “I am very confident taking PKs.”
The Settlers were unable to add an insurance goal to help them breathe easier, so they defended. Syron, who played a good portion of the game at midfield and forward, was pulled back to assist the back line, helping defend the elusive Villella and strip her of the ball on several occasions.
“When we’re down a goal or tied, she pushes forward to try to put us into the lead,” Chris Golden said. “Then she sinks back into a more defensive position. She wins 90 percent of the balls in the defensive third. She’s big and strong and she’s not going to get beat. And if she does, she recovers. And then she plays those balls long. She’s all over the field. Vintage Grace.”
Chris Golden was enjoying watching his girls celebrate their historic achievement.
“This team has exceeded the expectations for the first time in the history of the program,” he said. “For these girls, this is a once in a lifetime … For these girls to be able to win the Suffolk County championship, win this game and then to go upstate and see what that’s about, with the banquet and all that, I’m so thrilled for them. I couldn’t ask for anything more. It’s a great group of girls. They deserve it.”
Photo credit: Garret Meade