By Phil Strum
MIDDLETOWN Arlington High School’s dream of a boys soccer state championship is one step closer to reality.
The Section 1 champion Admirals rolled past Section 9 champion Washingtonville 5-0 in a state Class AA regional final on Tuesday at Middletown’s Faller Field.
Arlington (20-1) advanced to this weekend’s state final four in Middletown and will face Section 3’s Utica Proctor on Saturday at 4 p.m. The winner of Saturday’s game will advance to Sunday’s 1 p.m. championship game in Middletown.
“Amazing,” Arlington senior captain Collin Illiano said. “It’s what I’ve always dreamed of … can’t wait.”
After buzzing for several minutes with a number of opportunities by Arlington’s Stephen Jennings, David Verdis got Arlington on the scoreboard 21:51 into the first half. Christopher Shea played a deep ball and passed to the left where he found Verdis, who converted the pass with a left boot past Thomas Ogrodnik.
The Admirals padded the lead at 23:49 when Illiano headed in a Matt Povall pass to give Arlington the 2-0 lead it held at halftime.
“We thought (Washingtonville) was going to come out strong,” Illiano said. “They did, but we came out stronger. We held all possession throughout the game.”
Eric Eastman boosted Arlington’s lead to 3-0, converting a Jeff Greblick pass 7:38 into the second half. Greblick then scored on a Verdis pass at the 17:20 and on a penalty kick at 21:25.
“I thought we played really relaxed today and it showed in our play,” said Arlington coach Craig Sanborn, who was an assistant coach under Gary Montalto on Arlington’s 2006 state title team, but never won one as a player. “It’s a hard-working group. Defending is hard work. These guys bought into that. Not just the 11 on the field, but the guys on the bench too.”
Verdis said once the chances started going in the net, Arlington was hard to stop.
“We played defense and were able to finish our chances. We’re fortunate to get to the final four,” Verdis said. “We had trouble putting (goals) in at the beginning. We were fortunate to get one in. After the first one, they just kept coming and it was a great team effort.”
Sanborn laughed and admitted he didn’t yet know much about Utica Proctor (17-3).
“You know what? We’re going to go out there and have some fun,” Sanborn said. “That’s what I’m going to tell the boys. Keep doing what we’ve been doing, take it all in and have some fun. We haven’t changed anything we’ve done regardless of who we’ve gone up against. We’re not changing the way we play. We’re still going to defend with 11, we’re still going to press and our defense is going to create our offense.”
Verdis said the chemistry among the Admirals comes from years of playing in youth leagues all the way up through the Arlington system.
“We’ve been playing together forever, since we were young kids,” Verdis said. “That’s big this year for us. We’re family and that’s how it’s been all season. We hope to carry that into this weekend.”
Phil Strum: firstname.lastname@example.org, 845-437-4847, Twitter: @PJStrum