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Croton Comes Up Short; Greeley Denied; White Plains Edged in Semis
By Tony Pinciaro
Jillian Mauro did not hesitate and the result was a Section 1 Class B girls’ soccer championship for state-ranked (No.15) BRIARCLIFF. After Mar Rivera Font sent a free kick off of the crossbar, Mauro pounced on the rebound and deposited a shot in the net, lifting No.1 Briarcliff to a 2-1 double-overtime victory over No.3 CROTON in Saturday’s title tilt at Nyack High School.
This is Briarcliff’s first girls’ soccer sectional championship since 2009. The Bears (13-4-1) will play the Section 9 champion at Wallkill High School, 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. The winner advances to the regional final, Saturday, 11/4, at a site and time to be determined.
Mauro showed tremendous poise as Croton goalie Emily Adler was quick to the ball, but the Briarcliff senior slipped a shot past Adler.
“Jillian’s composure in the moment was excellent,” senior and captain Sora Marable said. “She was calm, cool and collected.”
The championship also enabled Briarcliff to erase from its memory a title-game loss to Bronxville in 2021.
“It feels amazing, surreal even,” Marable said. “I couldn’t ask for a better senior year. We were here two years ago, but now it feels like I’m living the dream.”
It was an outstanding game between two excellent teams, especially in the second half and the overtimes. Croton grabbed a 1-0 lead 18 minutes into the second half as Lucia Thorsen outhustled a Briarcliff defender to the ball in Briarcliff’s box. She beat Briarcliff goalie Karina Bar to the ball and tucked a shot under her.
The goal motivated Briarcliff, which up until that point, had been having a tough second half.
“With their goal I saw it as a silly mistake on our behalf, so I gained a ton of anger and that fueled the start I needed for the remainder of the game,” Marable said.
Briarcliff had a golden opportunity to even the score at 1-1 four minutes later, but Adler made a phenomenal save on a point-blank shot resulting from a Rivera Font crossing pass.
The Bears got the equalizer at the 17-minute mark as Marable created it. Marable raced down the field with the ball and as she entered the box, Adler charged out to intercept her. Instead, Adler and Marable collided and the official awarded Briarclilff a penalty kick despite the anger and questioning from Adler and her teammates.
Marable calmly stepped to the ball and drilled a low shot into the right corner, just eluding Adler’s dive.
“Coach David (Villalobos) told us, earlier in the game, that we needed to be more ambitious with our runs,” Marable said. “I took that to heart and put a ton of extra effort with the remainder of my runs in the game, including that one. Their goalie had a ton of anger going into her set up, so I knew I had it. I always maintain my composure in situations like that. I’m very calm when the time calls for it.”
Croton appeared to have scored the tie-breaking goal as Thorsen finished a pass from Elle McManus with a little more than seven minutes remaining, but the officials huddled. Following a brief conversation, Croton was called for a hand ball and Thorsen’s goal was negated.
Marable and her teammates breathed a huge sigh of relief.
“Everything happened so fast,” Marable said. “I didn’t even know they scored on us. The sign of relief came when the bench started screaming and jumping like crazy. Then the ref blew the whistle to signify offsides.”
And with that, Briarcliff advanced.
The last few years, SOMERS has been among the Section 1 elite in girls’ soccer only to suffer heartbreaking defeats in sectional play. Senior and captain Jordan McMorrow pointed out that the Tuskers lost in quadruple overtime to Pearl River in the 2021 Section 1 Class A quarterfinal round. Last year was even more difficult to accept as the Tuskers played an excellent game only to lose 1-0 to Clarkstown North in a sectional semifinal. The winning goal came on a penalty kick.
Even though they were difficult to deal with, McMorrow and her teammates learned from them.
“I definitely think those losses gave us extra motivation,” McMorrow said. “It taught us that even if we have a really good effort, anything can happen in sectionals. Nothing is finalized until the final whistle blows. You have to work 100 percent and play the full 80 minutes.”
McMorrow and her teammates would not be denied this year. The top-ranked and undefeated Tuskers remained perfect with a 3-1 victory over third-seeded Horace Greeley in the Section 1 Class AA final.
State-ranked (No.1) Somers, now 20-0 this season, will play the Section 4 champion, 5 p.m., Wednesday, at Chenango Valley High School (Section 4). The winner advances to a regional final, 5:30 p.m., Saturday, 11/4, at Wallkill High School (Section 9).
The Tuskers received first-half goals from junior sniper Tiana Righetti and captain Annie Maguire despite what McMorrow admitted was a case of the butterflies.
“Everyone was super nervous, but we didn’t lose faith in our team,” McMorrow pointed out. “We wanted to go out and do what we had been doing in every other game. We came in wanting to prove why we were the one seed and why we were undefeated. We felt the only team that could hurt us would be ourselves.”
Even though Greeley’s Sophia Ivanov scored in the opening minute of the second half, Somers was unphased. In fact, Somers seized the momentum off of this goal.
The Tuskers controlled play and Julia Arbelaez restored Somers’ two-goal lead, sealing the deal.
McMorrow savored the moment the final horn sounded because she realized Somers was the sectional champion.
“I was thinking, ‘Is this even real?’ ” McMorrow said. “This is something you dream of when you’re a little kid. Julia Arbelaez and I were both running to join our teammates and I gave her a big hug. Julia and I have been playing for the same club for our entire career.”
The moment became a reality when Maguire, Arbelaez and McMorrow were given the Section 1 championship plaque.
“It was such a great moment,” McMorrow said. “I was so happy to receive it with Annie and Julia. Our team worked so hard for it and we finally won it.”
It was not the conclusion CROTON wanted, but it did not take away from one of the finest seasons in program history. The Tigers entered the Section 1 Class B Championship as the third seed and opened with a win over No.6 Rye Neck.
Croton followed it up with a 3-2 win over second-seeded Pleasantville on goals by Gwen McManus, Katelyn Quinlan and Vivian Obermeier.
Croton gave top-seeded Briarcliff everything it could handle, but the Bears found a way in a 2-1 double-overtime victory in the championship game.
The Tigers were on the short end of two calls that went against them. One resulting in a penalty-kick goal for Briarcliff and the other denying Lucia Thoreson what would have been the go-ahead goal with seven-plus minutes remaining in the game.
Thoreson gave Croton a 1-0 lead 18 minutes into the second half on an outstanding hustle play. A few minutes later, goalie Emily Adler kept Croton up 1-0, denying a point-blank shot on a perfectly-placed crossing pass from the left wing.
Once Briarcliff evened the score on a penalty kick, the Tigers continued playing aggressively offensively. The result was what appeared to be Thoreson’s second goal of the game with 7:47 on the clock. What angered Croton was following the goal, the officials met and the goal was disallowed because of a hand ball.
“It was heartbreaking for that goal to be taken back,” senior and captain Ana Chiocchi said. “We continue to watch the film and there is no handball, so knowing that it changed the outcome of such an important game is devastating.”
Chiocchi and her teammates are still upset about the final outcome, but not by their outstanding season.
“This has been an amazing season,” Chiocchi said. “Being my last season, I am so happy and honored that we had such an amazing, hard-working team. From the beginning of the season we knew we would have a successful year and it was one of the best in our program’s history. I could not be more proud of how hard-working we were through the whole season. It would have been amazing to take home the trophy, but I am so proud with how far we made it.”
Croton coach Winston McKoy agrees with Chiocchi and credited his seniors for their impact on the program.
“Our seniors are the reason the program is where it is right now,” McKoy said. “They all stepped up and influenced our success by leading the path, taking in our younger players and establishing a consistent work ethic that marinated down to our underclassmen. I have nothing but respect for them and how they carried themselves with poise and pride all season and over the years as varsity players.”
HORACE GREELEY, ranked No.13 in NYS, came off of an excellent regular season and earned the third seed in Class AA. The Quakers defeated Suffern, 3-0, in a quarterfinal and beat No.2 Yorktown, 1-0, in a semifinal, to punch their ticket to the championship game, capping what was an incredible season for the state-ranked (No.13) Quakers.
WHITE PLAINS opened the Section 1 Class AAA championships with a 1-0 overtime win over No.5 Ossining on a Violeta Figuero goal 1:43 in. Goalie Paige Kearon was excellent with 13 saves. The fourth-seeded Tigers lost to top-seeded and eventual champion Arlington, 2-1, in a semifinal. Figueroa scored and Kearon finished with 15 saves.
LAKELAND completed another successful season for veteran Coach Shawn Sullivan. Following a first-round win over No.9 Byram Hills, the Hornets were knocked out by top-seeded and eventual finalist Albertus Magnus in a Class A quarterfinal.
“We finished the season with a record of 11-7, a league title and first-round sectional win,” Sullivan said. “The team showed a tremendous amount of growth throughout the year and reached our goal of playing our best soccer in late October. The girls truly became a team this year and got the most of their talent. The group was an absolute pleasure to coach.”
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