D’Ippolito’s Scores 4, Paves Path to Somers’ 3rd Sectional Title in 6 Years

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By Ray Gallagher, Examiner Sports editor @Directrays
Second-seeded, state-ranked (No.4) Tuskers hoisted their third Section 1 Class A title plaque in the last six years after taking out No.4 Eastchester, 6-5

If every high school soccer game played across the globe was as riveting as last Saturday’s Section 1 Class A title game, the sport would explode in popularity. Second-seeded Somers (18-1) and fourth-seeded Eastchester (15-3-1) exchanged leads five times and fought through three ties before the state-ranked (No.4) Tuskers secured a 6-5 title triumph, their third in six years under sixth-year Coach Brian Lanzetta.

The state-ranked (No.16) Eagles battled relentlessly, forcing Somers keeper Anthony Tucci (nine saves) to up his game, which he did with a diving stop in the closing minutes to preserve a victory triggered by the four goals off the foot of senior F Danile D’Ippolito, the game’s clear-cut MVP.

“Daniel’s the best player in the section, hands down, one of the best to ever play at Somers,” Lanzetta roared about the D-I prospect, who has gained interest from Seton Hall and Elon among others. “He is just on another level, one of the best players that Section 1 has seen in 10 years. To score four goals and dish a couple of assists in a championship game is just unreal. The boys showed heart. We’ve been fueled by some of the media who have doubted us. A lot of things about the press when people say Somers survived or this and that, but hands down we’ve been the best team. We lose a double overtime game to Somers and get dropped in the rankings, that’s the kind of stuff that motivates us. I’m very proud right now that they proved that we are the best in Section 1, and our goal right now is to get back to a third state championship game in six years. I want another ring.”

Somers senior Daniel D’Ippolito cranks game-winning goal in Tuskers’ 6-5 Section 1 Class A title win over Eastchester Saturday at Lakeland.

Somers needed more than motivation when the Eagles rallied for three unanswered goals to take a 5-3 lead with 28:38 left. The Tuskers needed a change in strategy, a lift off the bench and its seniors to take over.

“Eastchester has a bunch of ballers and we have two sophomores playing at center back,” Lanzetta said. “The fact that they even got us to this game just shows their ability and mentality. In a sectional final, you can get a little bit rattled, but at Somers we just keep rebuilding with what we have.

“We made a huge adjustment when we brought senior Ethan Cohen off the bench to play at center back,”

Lanzetta added. “He’s a great athlete who came in off the bench cold to do his best for his teammates, and Dip, Bennet (Leitner) and (Jaques) Verard took the game over on the attack. This is the beauty of soccer. It’s a round ball and it bounces any which way and there is nothing better than playoff soccer in Section 1.”

Fourth-year senior striker Bennett Leitner worked the far sideline throughout and cashed in on the first of two huge assists when he crossed the ball into a crowd and found Noah Saks near the goal line for the tap-in, making it 5-4 Eagles with 21:20 to play.

Somers got fouled above the top of the box and D’Ippolito snuck the next one in on a restart that caught the entire stadium napping, tying the score at 5-5. Leitner then found a slight crease to push a ball to D’Ippolito in the box, which he drilled, for the go-ahead goal with 18:18.

“This was a roller-coaster ride,” the Big Dipper said. “We went up, we went down, it was an actual roller-coaster ride. We always believed in our boys to the end. Fight, fight, fight… that was our mentality.”

Trailing 2-1, Somers, which advanced to the finals after Wednesday’s 4-3 win over No.3 Yorktown, did just that when Verard knotted the score at 2-all just before the break off a D’Ippolito assist. D’Ippolito gave the Tuskers the lead right out of the break before Eastchester rang off three unanswered. When things looked their bleakest, Leitner rose to the occasion.

“We’re just a resilient group of guys,” Leitner said. “We know what we’re capable of. We knew it wasn’t over when we went down by two. It wasn’t over until that clock expired.

Yorktown junior D Sean Horlacher fends off Somers F Brady Leitner in Huskers’ 4-3 semifinal loss to Tuskers.

“This title is the best of all,” Leitner added. “It’s just been a blessing. This one is special because in the past I was just a young guy being led by a bunch of seniors. Now, I took that step to be a leader on this team. It’s a feeling that doesn’t compare to any other feeling. I hope these young guys take this and run with it and continue this Somers dynasty.

“We’re not done, for sure,” Leitner said. “With the expectations put on us this year, a lot of teams that win a section title feel like they’ve reached their expectations. That’s not the case with us. To this point, we’ve still underachieved. There’s more to do. We’ll celebrate for a little bit but get back to work as soon as possible.”
The Tuskers had that same mindset after knocking off Yorktown (14-2-2) and reaching their third sectional final game since 2018. D’Ippolito finished with two goals and two assists and got kicked in the face on one of his tallies, a nifty header he pushed home against three Husker defenders.

Yorktown, which had a terrific season and put the only blemish on Somers’ record this season, got goals from David Beitler and Harry Griff, plus an own-goal.

“Three lapses of concentration cost us the game,” first-year Husker Coach Zoran Milojevic admitted. “Their second goal with two seconds before the end of half was a turning point, and their fourth goal was the dagger.”

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