Happy birthday, Andrew Sadowski!
As far as birthday gifts for a high school boys soccer coach go, not many are better than a county championship. It was just what Sadowski wanted.
Having received their well-deserved reward, the Southold First Settlers celebrated and, in unison, yelled out a birthday wish to Sadowski as center midfielder Freddy Palencia handed him the Suffolk County Class C championship plaque at the same time.
“It was a great present for him,” said forward Daniel Palencia, Freddy’s cousin.
Daniel Palencia, Jack Sepenoski, Justin Uguna and Ricardo Lopez scored in Southold’s 4-0 season-ending defeat of Pierson/Bridgehampton in Saturday’s final at Diamond in the Pines in Coram. Southold successfully defended the county crown it won in 2019 (the postponed 2020 season was pushed back to this spring). The First Settlers grabbed their ninth county title in 17 years and 23rd at the Class C or D level since 1978. It is Southold’s 11th county title under Sadowski, whose 27-year career record is 301-139-25.
Southold (5-4-2) duplicated a 4-0 win it registered over Pierson (3-6-2) during the regular season. The First Settlers did it with fine marksmanship. Thirteen of the team’s 18 shots were on goal.
“Our finishing was pretty darn good today,” Sadowski told reporters. “You got to take advantage of those opportunities that are sitting there for you. We’ve worked a lot, just on the concept of hitting the frame.”
At the other end of the field, goalkeeper Gavin Fredricks came up with seven saves, none bigger than during the early scoreless moments when he sprang to his right for a sprawling stop on Luis Paredes.
Daniel Palencia opened the scoring 10 minutes, 36 seconds into the match with his sixth goal of the year, having exchanged passes with Sepenoski.
“It was amazing,” Daniel Palencia said. “My last game, my last goal, so it feels great for me.”
Sepenoski said: “We played great. We were possessing the ball, playing it down the line and crossing it in, and we were shooting it at the goal today and not over.”
Sepenoski is one of four freshmen on Southold’s playoff roster. A reporter noted that Sepenoski didn’t play like a freshman. Does he feel like a freshman?
“Yeah, I get pushed around in practice sometimes,” he said. “It forces me to work harder, become better and like raise my skill level.”
And pick up his first career goal. Sepenoski received a ball from Daniel Palencia with two Whalers in front of him. After taking a touch, the ball bounced off a couple of feet and landed right in Sepenoski’s path. He charged in with only the goalie in front of him and deposited his shot into the right side.
Sadowski said Sepenoski “works really hard and the thing is, he’s not afraid. I was very happy for him that he got a goal because all year he just keeps plugging away, working and working and working.”
It was just 4:23 later when Uguna slammed in a ball goalkeeper Nick Collage (seven saves) couldn’t control after Daniel Palencia drove the ball into the goalmouth. That made it 3-0 at 56:55.
Ricardo Lopez drilled in the final goal, assisted by Freddy Palencia, at 66:01.
Speaking of his teammates, Daniel Palencia said: “They played great — possess the ball, keep working hard. That’s what we were looking for, and we got it.”
Daniel Palencia is one of five seniors who have played their last game for Southold. Freddy Palencia, Jaishaun McRae, Uguna and Melvin Ortiz are the others. They all get to leave with a nice lasting memory of the pandemic season of 2021.
“It means a lot to me, to be honest with you because it feels good to share with my team again one more time and for the last time, my senior year,” Daniel Palencia said. “So I feel amazing and happy.”
Apparently, birthdays have a winning history in the Sadowski family. The coach recalled once winning a county championship on his wife Rosie’s birthday.
The rest of Sadowski’s Saturday was planned out. He was to join a party celebrating his mother-in-law’s 91st birthday.
As for himself, how did this birthday gift rate?
“It’s up there, way up there,” Sadowski said. “I think the best thing about the present is I’m still going to walk into the party and no one’s going to be mad that I’m three hours late, so that’s good, too.”