Mattituck/Southold/Greenport has come a remarkably long way since the start of the high school girls soccer season. From an 0-6 start, the first-year consolidated team from the Mattituck and Southold/Greenport programs is now a county champion.
MSG’s first title of any kind did not come easily Monday in the Suffolk County Class B final. The North Forkers overcame a two-goal deficit, scored an equalizer with 32 seconds left in the second half and battled Babylon for 110 minutes of soccer that ended with the score tied, 3-3, before prevailing in an extended penalty-kick tiebreaker, 5-4.
“That was a game for the ages there,” MSG coach Chris Golden said after the contest at Center Moriches High School.
MSG had no shortage of heroines. Jill Golden struck for a hat trick, including her goal off a pass from Claire Gatz with 32 seconds left in regulation time to level the score at 3-3. Like Superman changing in a phone booth, sweeper Sarah Santacroce put on her green goalkeeper jersey for the penalty kicks and stopped two of them. Francesca Vasile-Cozzo, the seventh MSG player to take a penalty during the tension-filled tiebreaker, slipped her shot in to end the drama.
“We just made history,” Vasile-Cozzo told reporters.
MSG (9-8) will face Cold Spring Harbor or Wheatley in the Long Island final Saturday at Islip High School.
“I think it means everything for the future of … our program,” said Jill Golden, who has five goals this year.
Was Golden expecting to score three goals in the game?
Hardly. She said she had a panic attack before the match.
And yet, the game was only 11 seconds old when MSG held a 1-0 lead thanks to Golden. She latched onto a ball from Gatz, split two defenders and scored.
Babylon (8-8), which had won the last two Suffolk Class B titles and was seeking its fifth overall, then replied with three straight goals. Tegan Castellucio headed in a long, high free kick from Erin MacQuarrie that tied it with 7:17 left in the first half. Sophie Ryan took a pass from Kyra DeVoe and sent a left-footed shot that found the net 7:57 into the second half. With 18:17 left in the half, MacQuarrie tallied off a corner kick, making it 3-1.
It looked like Babylon had the game won.
“I never gave up and I never lost hope, but I did have my uncertainties,” said Santacroce.
Then came another sliver of hope. Golden struck again, this time off a pass from Amber Rochon with 15:04 left in the second half.
Santacroce said she started crying in the final minute of regulation time, thinking MSG’s season was about to end. And then Golden netted her third goal of the day.
“When she wants to do something, she puts her mind to it and nothing’s getting in her way,” said Vasile-Cozzo.
Both teams converted their first four penalty kicks. MacQuarrie, Ryan, Castellucio and DeVoe scored for Babylon. Gatz, Golden, Maggie Bruer and Lauren Zuhoski made good on their attempts for MSG.
Golden said she felt lightheaded during penalty kicks. “I felt like I was going to pass out, throw up or cry,” she said.
Santacroce might have felt uneasy, too. She didn’t have an opportunity to warm up as a goalkeeper before the tiebreaker, yet she nearly saved two penalties. MacQuarrie’s shot slipped through her hands and DeVoe drove her attempt in off Santacroce’s leg.
“I should have had them,” said Santacroce.
But Santacroce did snag Melissa Guerra’s penalty and made a leg save on Sophia Corrado. Then Babylon’s Kate Ficken hooked her shot high, setting up Vasile-Cozzo’s game-winner.
“You saw it,” Chris Golden said of Vasile-Cozzo’s spot kick. “She was calm, cool, composed. She stepped up there. She had a plan and then she executed it and she brought us the Suffolk County Class B championship.”
Vasile-Cozzo said it was the first time she had taken a penalty kick in a high school game.
“Did that just happen? It’s kind of surreal when you think about it,” the senior right midfielder said of the drama that unfolded. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing.”
Photo caption: Mattituck/Southold/Greenport’s Jill Golden flicks a shot on goal despite defending by Babylon’s Sophia Corrado (12) and Sophie Ryan (16). Babylon goalkeeper Emma Ward (1) made the save. (Credit: Bob Liepa)