Byram, Mahopac, Somers Copped 2020 Regional Titles

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Mahopac senior Hailey Pereira (8) and Somers senior Dahlia Pepe both earned All-Section honors during superb 2020 campaigns.

By Ray Gallagher
Examiner Sports Editor@Directrays

There was a ton of heartache, some drama and mixed emotions behind the scenes for many Examiner-area girls’ soccer teams due to Coronavirus, including a co-championship situation between Mahopac and Somers in the Putnam-Northern Westchester Large School Regional Tournament; an unforseen forfeit by Briarcliff that handed Byram Hills the Putnam-Northern Westchester Small School title, and a mega upset of former NYS Class B champion Pleasantville in the Southern Westchester Small School Regional Tournament.

So, while the 2020 climax left some programs with a sense of bathos (with the subsequent quarantines and the cancellation of the state tournament), we still managed to get our girls to the finish line thanks to the hard work — both on and off the field — by players, coaches and administrators, who juggled schedules due to COVID-19.

MAHOPAC’s (8-3-2) run to the Putnam-Northern Westchester large school finals as the No.4 seed was a credit to Coach Casey Carroll’s wherewithal to juggle her lineup down the stretch. With key players like All-NYS senior Mia Klammer (6G, 2A) plus Amanda Beberman and Alyssa Chiulli quarantined, Carroll had to move her pieces into different positions, using her versatile players in a host of ways. Junior goalkeeper Maddy McCrosson and junior defenders Maddy DeCola (All-Section HM) and Marissa McCarney (All-League HM) were mainstays on the back line, and Bryant-bound senior F Hailey Pereira and All-League sophomore Piper Klammer came up huge in key moments. Pereira (7G, 9A), who earned an All-Section nod, had the game-tying PK in the second half after Piper Klammer (10G, 2A) was fouled before Pereira converted the final PK to ice the semifinal win over top-seeded Yorktown where McCrosson began a torrid stretch between the pipes.

“We had to switch positions around from about the midpoint of the season on,” Coach Carroll said. “Piper Klammer had to move up top when we lost Mia, who is just such a dynamic player you immediately notice when she’s not on the field. So, now Hailey’s gotta stay on one side of the field, and Maddy DeCola would’ve played more center mid for us. And we had JV players come up and play the back line for us. But our three quarantined players help us get to where we are now, going all the way back to last year and my heart breaks for them.

“We were so happy to have any type of season this year, but in true 2020 fashion it didn’t come without its challenges,” she added. “I am so happy we were able to have such a successful run in the postseason.”

SOMERS (11-3-1) got hot when it counted and turned its season around after a slow start _- opening at 3-3 — but continued its strong soccer tradition under first-year Coach Kelci Hegg, who transitioned in a new style with similar winning results, including the shared regional title with Mahopac after 110 minutes of scoreless action.

An eight-game winning streak ensued, in which the second-seeded Tuskers outscored their opponents 40-3 behind a combined 20 goals from All-Section seniors Dahlia Pepe (14G, 4) and Ella Kittredge (12G, 7A), producing a thrilling run to the finals. All-Leaguer sophomore Ava Giudice (6G, 5A) provided a third legit scoring threat.

Senior Kayli McMorrow was named All-Section HM while senior Noelle DeMarinis and junior Tori Righetti were tabbed All-League.

“I can’t say enough about these girls and all they did to turn this season around,” Hegg said. “Under the circumstances, including a new coach, a new style of play and a pandemic, I could not be any prouder of our season.”

YORKTOWN (10-1-1) performed one of their greatest starts in program history and went unbeaten during the regular season before falling to Mahopac in the regional semis on PK’s. Coach Rich Armstrong’s top-seeded Huskers unleashed sophomore F Julianna Vano (11G, 5A) on Section 1 and she responded with an All-Section HM campaign, scoring a team-high 16 points. Freshman F Drita Tinaj (4G, 8A) had a monster rookie campaign and will combine with Vano next season to pose as one of the top dual threats in the section. Senior M Chayce Buono and Caitlin Ward each secured All-Section honors to cap their brilliant careers. Sophia Spallone (5G), Emily Ward (4G, 4A), Samantha Paglino, Abby Passarella and Grace Pearce were all named All-League.

“From the first day of practice, the senior class of seven have set the tone, led by example and set their sights on a league title,” Armstrong said. “When we were finally about to kick-off at Somers, as a team we weren’t sure how many games we would play. We said to each other, ‘play like today is it, play like tomorrow is a Covid outbreak’, so from the first game to the last, each and everyone of these girls played with grit and determination to be the best they could be.”

No.4 LAKELAND (6-6) was shut down after a quarterfinal win over No.5 PUTNAM VALLEY (4-6-1), reaching the semifinals before the unexpected, COVID-related halt. The Hornets’ would-be semifinal opponent, Briarcliff, had to forfeit its championship game last Monday against Byram Hills for similar reasons. All the associated teams deserved a better conclusion to this whacky season.

“We are so grateful that we had a season,” Lakeland Coach Shawn Sullivan said. “While the team’s season got cut short by COVID, after we advanced in the playoffs, just having our team back together made this year a huge success. The season was highlighted by wins over local rivals: Panas, Hen Hud and Putnam Valley. This group was an absolute pleasure to coach.They arrived willing and eager to learn and showed constant improvement throughout the year.”

Hornet M Linda Daly earned a second All-Section honor as a junior while Francesca Gerbasi (5G, 8A) was All-Section HM and both Ava Pagliaro (7G) and Nadia Parisi (3G, 5A) were tabbed as All-Leaguers.

BYRAM HILLS (7-2) would be crowned champs via a forfeit win over BRIARCLIFF (11-3) after the Bears were bitten by the COVID bug on the day of the title tilt. Neither team was happy with the unfortunate decision. The Bobcats reached the finals after a 2-1 semifinal win over North Salem with All-Section senior F Alexa Jindal (8G, 4A) scoring a big goal to finish up. The Bobcats overcame a regular season quarantine to rise above it all. Junior Reese Ertel was named All-Section HM while Olivia Tedesco (6G, 2A) came up strong all season and in the playoffs, and All-League junior Sara Grguvoric (3G, 2A) was steady throughout. Sophomore Syndey Nichols earned All-League as well.

“They could have done really well in the finals,” Bobcat Coach Julianne Marinaro said. “To be honest, due to our 14 day shutdown, we didn’t even reach our potential. This was a very talented team and we were all disappointed with the ending.”

Briarcliff was led offensively by All-League junior F Arianna Vizcaino (9G, 3A), gifted Buffalo-bound All-Section senior Ashleigh Fortunate (10G, 2A) and All-Section F/M Caitlyn Dornau (5G, 3A), an extremely versatile senior. Sophomore G Dylan Zednick secured All-Section honors to begin what should be a superb career between the pipes.

HORACE GREELEY (4-6-2) was eliminated by Mahopac in the quarters of the large school Putnam-N.West. tourney but saw Ramsey Edson (8G, 3A) post All-Section numbers. Abigail Hanlon also secured an All-Section nod while All-League honors went to Jillian Gordon and Sydney Mikesell.

“The girls were led by senior captains Ellie Handwerger and Abigail Hanlon,” Quaker Coach Erin Tracy said. “In addition to those seniors, Grace Byrne, Emily Nordberg, Jessie Greenstein, Riley Card and Jessica Kratz were big for us. Our leading scorer was Ramsey Edson who scored 85% of our goals. We had a new addition Sydney Mikesell who helped solidify the defensive back line. This was an incredibly talented group whose record doesn’t quite show how talented they were.”

No.6 WALTER PANAS (5-8), despite losing to Byram Hills in the opening round, displayed tremendous heart, resiliency, and work ethic throughout the season, according to Coach Kyle Pierce. “Whether it was practice, games, or time with the team, it was always an enjoyable experience for players and coaches.”

The Panther’s offense was led by junior Kayla Guevara who chalked-up five goals and added four assists to become the team’s high scorer and secure an All-League nod. Freshman Kaylie Mellars recorded four goals and three assists, and sophomore Molly Muller scored three goals while adding an assist.

Captains Amanda Cohen and Alex Sudol displayed steadfast leadership on the defensive end for Panas, each earning All-League honors. Senior G Natalia Londono recorded 101 saves, keeping the Panthers in most games this season. Ella Yaeger served a vital role as the team’s marking fullback and was able to shutdown most opposing teams’ offensive threats, earning her HM All-League.

“Despite all the obstacles, this season was fun, successful, and an overall great experience for coaches and players alike,” Pierce said.

No.8 HEN HUD (5-7) eliminated No.9 PEEKSKILL (2-10-1) before falling to Briarcliff in the quarters. Sailor senior Kira Varada (12G, 4A) chalked up her second All-Section honor and finished her career as one of the top scorers in school history with 44 career goals. She averaged 1.25 goals per game for her career.

All-League sophomore Lena Johnsen (9G, 6A) had an amazing rookie season while All-Section junior Sabrina Byrne (5G, 2A) was one of the most improved players who established herself as potentially one of the top returning players for next year. The two should be dynamite next season but 2020 was a season for character building, according to Sailor Coach Bill Pagel.

“The most important win this season was to be able to have a season,” Hagel said. “We had a team with 11 seniors and for them to be able to play a 12 game season was a huge success. Our senior captains Elizabeth McDowell, Molly Gibson, Maddy O’Hara and Kira Varada did an amazing job leading the team through a difficult season filled with many unknowns.”

Honorable Mention All-Section honors went to senior Maddy O’Hara while All-League merits went to seniors Elizabeth McDowell, Molly Gibson and sophomore Katherine Couch.

Pagel cited special acknowledgement to senior G Iliana Done. “She has been a steady, reliable presence for us the past three seasons and her final season was her best season.”

PLEASANTVILLE (12-1), the No.1 seed, was shocked in the small school Southern Westchester Regional finals by No.3 Bronxville, 3-1 (see game story). All-Section senior F Katie Moses (7G, 10A) was named the Player of the Year in the league. All-Section HM senior F Izzy Kapoor (9G, 5A), All-Section HM senior M Amber Nanaj (7G, 3A) and All-League HM freshman M Jess Beck (4G, 4A) also led the attack. The stalwart defense featured seniors G Lila Donohue (All-League HM), All-Section D Carolyn Lee and All-Section D Analese Picart. Grace Capko and Mary Grace O’Neill were named All-League as well.

The Panthers will graduate a talented senior group of 15 players.

“We’ve had so many of them as part of the program since their freshman year,” said Panther Coach Chris Osterhoud, the league’s Coach of the Year. “They pretty much put Pleasantville on the map during their four years. This is definitely a class that went down in history, especially with the state championship last year. They kind of cemented what they meant to the program, the coaching staff and the school as well.

“When the kids had to quarantine for those two weeks, for us it was early enough in the year that we were able to get out of it,” Osterhoudt added. “Just crazy situations. We just tried to keep the girls positive and hoping for the best. They worked so hard to get that quarterfinal win with a lot of the JV call-ups. It’s certainly a season we’re never going to forget. That’s for sure.”

No.7 WHITE PLAINS (6-7), which was knocked out of the playoffs by No.2 Rye, was led offensively by All-Section HM Katie McAteer (7G, 12A), All-League Julieth Valesquez (9G), All-League Melissa Soto (6G) and All-League Alexa Galligani (5G, 1A). Kristen Russo was also named All-League while All-League HM honors went to Sofia Andrade, Shannon Larkin, Natasha Mendez, Jade Palmer and Anneliese Reggio.

“I am so incredibly proud of the 2020 girls’ soccer program,” White Plains Coach Meaghan Chase said. “It goes without saying how difficult this year has been, and my players truly blew me away by how strong they remained during the entire season. Even when we were losing against the team that won the section by three goals in the last five minutes of the game, every single one of my players fought until the very end. I could not have asked for anything more.”

PUTNAM VALLEY (4-5-1) turned things around this year and saw Lindsey Cohen secure All-Section HM honors while Dannia Jadan, Arianna Stockinger, Karol Noguera and Amanda Orlando were named All-League under Coach Nicole Ryan, who was named Coach of the Year in their league.

“To go from not a single win last season, to 4-5-1 during such a complicated and short season, shows the great dedication, effort, and teamwork on this team,” Ryan said. “What’s more remarkable than progress since last season, is progress within this season alone. To have the girls’ resilience, improvement and overall attitudes commended by other coaches is even more meaningful to me than what’s in the record books. As coaches we were so very proud to see the girls take the little aspects of the game on the individual level and piece them together on the team level. It’s been a beautiful thing to watch them grow as student athletes and to watch them perform at the varsity level. We take great pride in this season.”

No.10 WESTLAKE (4-10-2) knocked off Leffell in the opening round but was bounced in the semis by eventual champ Bronxville. All-Section sniper Jennifer Straface (8G, 1A), who had two goals in a 5-1 quarterfinal playoff win over Tuckahoe, led the club in scoring in what could only be considered a solid playoff showing.

No.8 CARMEL (1-8) was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by Yorktown.

Sixth-seeded OSSINING (4-6) ended the season with a loss to John Jay CR in the Put.-N.West. large school regional with Marlee Potillo (6G, 3A) leading the way.

No.7 FOX LANE (2-9) was eliminated by Somers.

No.10 CROTON-HARMON (5-7) knocked off No.10 HALDANE (1-10-1) and was led by Maliha Ravelo (10G, 1A) this season.

No.11 VALHALLA (0-10-1) was eliminated by Dobbs in the opening round.

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