Coincidence or not: Since Lakeland boys’ soccer Coach Tim Hourahan arrived at Lakeland 12 years ago; four as JV boss and the last eight on varsity, the Hornets have been to the Section 1 Final Four 10 times, and five times made section finals. Hourahan is a win away from bringing fourth-seeded Lakeland to a sixth sectional championship in 12 years with a win over top-seeded Byram Hills (14-2-1) Tuesday.
Ranked No.16 in NYS Class A, the reigning Section 1 champion Hornets (13-5) heeded their coach’s words and came out with a bounce in their step in a 2-0 quarterfinal win over visiting No.12 Nyack last Sunday at the Hive. The Hurricane Sandy-induced layoff might have paved the way to some rusty legs, but Hourihan and assistant Nick Jerussi addressed that issue days prior to the game.
“We spoke to the team last few days and before game about playing your mark on the game in the first 20 minutes and we told them the team that wakes up first from this layoff will be the team that wins,” Hourahan said of the Nyack (11-7-1) win.
Senior captain Timmy O’Driscoll wasted little time when he buried a goal seven minutes in of a choice look from Johnny Denis, whom Hourahan hopes will pay four years’ worth of incredible dividends at Lakeland.
“It was an unbelievable knockdown layoff by Denis,” Hourahan said of the wildly talented rookie. “I thought we played well the whole 40 minutes of the first half, but were unable to get a second goal.
Defensively, the Hornets were on their marks as keeper Reggis Mora did not have to record a save in first half.
“We asked our guys at halftime to serve some more early balls and get numbers in to the box to create havoc,” Hourhan said.
At about 15 minutes into second half, junior Edwin Hernandez tickled the twine off a cross and subsequent scramble in the box, and Lakeland is tough to beat with a two-goal cushion when senior captain Andrew Mitgang, Gino Cassese, Gonzalo Prando, Alen Pepic and company can put the clamps down on opposing attackers.
“The defense has been lights out of recent,” Hourahan said. “For seven consecutive games we have not given up a goal in the run of play. We have given up five in last seven but four were on corner kicks and one on a free kick. So our team shape in back has been great of late.”
And it will only get better for Byram Hills when senior Jon Pinto returns from injury to serve as the team’s primary marking back.
“We hope to unleash him on Byram’s top scorer come Tuesday afternoon,” Hourahan said of the game that features the last two Class A champions, with the fundamentally lethal Bobcats winning four of the last six with a state title in 2007. It’s important the Hornets remember it’s not 2007 anymore and the mystique of the Bobcats is not something to get caught up in.
No.6 MAHOPAC 2, No.19 CARMEL 1 (OT): On a bitter cold Monday, the host Indians and Rams left it all on the field before the golden goose, Joey Iraola, snapped a 1-1 tie in the final minute of the first overtime to send Coach Chris Emery’s Indians to the Class AA Final 4 for the second time in three years where No.2 North Rockland lies in wait on Tuesday. It was the speedy Iraola’s fourth overtime goal this season and should spark the Class AA Player of the Year debate, which has been kicked about all season.
Carmel’s Justin Dorazio struck first for a 1-0 lead in the 62nd minute, but Indian Sebastian Kufu scored the equalizer off a header just six minutes later from Ryan Conlin’s free kick. Goalies Mike Bernardi of Mahopac and Ram Ederson Medina were on top of their game, but one would have to lose in OT.
Mahopac D Kieran Donnelley saved the Indians in the 20th minute with a sliding save, as Bernardi (16 saves) was caught off line. Coach Mike Gizzo’s Rams should be applauded for a fantastic effort few saw coming, while the Indians brace for a showdown with the state-ranked (No.9) Raiders. It was Mahopac vs. Carmel, the way it ought to be, and both clubs displayed nothing but class.
No.11 SOMERS 1, No.3 YONKERS 0: In a defensive scrum, the Tuskers advanced to the Class B semifinals to face top-seeded Port Chester on Tuesday in the semis at Purchase College. The Tuskers, who got the game-winning goal off the foot of crafty Harold Aryee, have advanced further than most people thought they would after losing bad on opening day to North Salem. It just goes to show that it’s not how you start but how you finish that matters in Section 1 soccer. Keeper Ryan Nealon made six saves to record the shutout for the Tuskers.
First-year Coach James Palumbo has done wonders with the unit.
“We have come a long way since August 20th of preseason,” Palumbo said. “It has been a season with ups and downs, but a constant belief in our team and what we want to achieve. We started the season saying we wanted to do something special and set the goal of winning a sectional title, so we’re not finished! I am proud of the team and excited that we have the opportunity to get right back on the field tomorrow and get better as a team.”