GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Stony Brook’s Emma Lavery, left, and Southold/Greenport’s Sophie Pickerell compete for the ball during the Suffolk County Class C final.
SUFFOLK CLASS C FINAL | BEARS 3, CLIPPERS 3 (BEARS WIN IN PKS, 3-1)
“Good game. Good game. Good game. …” said the glum-looking Southold/Greenport Clippers, wearing tear-lined faces as they walked down the line, congratulating the new Suffolk County Class C girls soccer champions, The Stony Brook School Bears.
The Clippers had a good season, reaching the playoffs for the first time in four years and playing probably their best soccer since then. And yet, 1987 still haunts them.
The Clippers were Suffolk Class C champions in 1987, and even though they have fielded some strong teams, they haven’t won another county title in the 26 years since.
Friday night was their chance, and it looked pretty good. After falling behind, 1-0, the Clippers scored three straight goals and held a two-goal lead that, quite remarkably, evaporated in the final four minutes of regulation time. Annie Skorobohaty’s equalizer for Stony Brook with 2:03 left in the second half sent the game into overtime. Then, with the score still tied at 3-3, the teams went to soccer’s ultimate pressure-cooker, penalty kicks.
Anna Wadding, Megan Pius and Skorobohaty found the mark for Stony Brook and Fiona Farrell saved two attempts by the Clippers, helping the Bears prevail in penalty kicks, 3-1, at the St. Joseph’s College athletic complex in Patchogue. Stony Brook (7-10), which has won six county championships in seven years, will face the Nassau County champions in a Southeast Region semifinal on Tuesday in New Hyde Park.
It is hard to imagine the Clippers (7-8-1) and their coach, Katy Smith, who was 2 years old when that 1987 team was crowned, enduring a crueler loss.
“I really thought that we had it, especially with the amount of time left in the game,” said Smith, who was herself visibly shaken by the dramatic turn of events.
Asked what she says to her team after absorbing such a season-ending loss as this, Smith replied, “I have no idea.”
The teams, which split their two regular-season meetings, engaged in a wild match.
Frank Macchia coached Stony Brook in place of Mark Maningo, who was serving a one-game suspension for a red card. His team struck first. Emily Pius, a junior midfielder, gave the Clippers trouble on the right flank all game long. She received a ball from Hannah Barker before sending a long-range shot from the right side that struck the inside of the left goal post and went in just 6:51 into the contest.
But the Clippers, who held a 22-12 advantage in shots, pulled even 4:48 into the second half. The industrious Justina Babcock, a midfielder who played every one of the 110 minutes, fired a shot from long distance that Farrell couldn’t handle, and Juliane Van Gorden pounded in the rebound.
Van Gorden also delivered the cutting pass that sent Raeann Berry in on goal for the go-ahead score at 58:15. Berry curled the shot inside the left post.
Then, just 48 seconds after that, Megan Van Bourgondien drove home a laser from about 30 yards for a seemingly safe 3-1 lead.
Babcock said: “As soon as we scored that third goal, I was like: ‘Oh, we got this in the bag. It’s going to be our game.’ And then it completely changed.”
The Clippers surely didn’t count on Stony Brook scoring twice in the final four minutes of the second half. That is exactly what happened.
Following a corner kick, the ball bounced Julia Shi’s way and she tagged a long drive into the net. The real stunner, though, came 1:57 later when Skorobohaty punched in a corner kick from Emily Pius, forcing overtime.
Babcock said her heart sank. “I watched it go in the net and then I just turned around and I couldn’t believe it,” she said.
In the opening minutes of overtime, Van Bourgondien came within inches of being Southold/Greenport’s saviour. Her 35-yard strike dipped off the crossbar.
From there, it was on to penalty kicks. The Clippers had Rosario Rodriguez replace Masha Winkler in goal for the penalties.
“We were standing there, shaking the entire time,” said Van Gorden.
After Van Bourgondien coolly sent her spot kick to the right side, knotting the tense tiebreaker at 1-1, Megan Pius and Skorobohaty converted their attempts to send the Bears into celebration mode and bring the Clippers to tears.
The Clippers are no strangers to disappointment. They missed reaching the playoffs by one game in each of the past two years.
Babcock, who along with midfielder Cynthia Van Bourgondien, are the Clippers’ only seniors, said: “It’s extremely hard to know that we were up and then we just lost it, and we worked so hard and it just ended, and then, like ending my senior year, it’s just difficult to know it’s over.”