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MAMARONECK — The final minutes of a soccer game can often feel like an agonizing eternity, particularly while clinging to a one-goal lead.
That was the situation that Rye Neck found itself in on Saturday, as Fox Lane threw everything that it had at the Panthers’ goal in the waning minutes. One shot went off of the crossbar, another pinged off of the post. A few more were just high or slightly wide, and when the dust had finally settled, Rye Neck had managed to hold on for the 1-0 upset win.
“It’s really nerve-wrecking,” midfielder Cameron Shaw said. “If they score a goal and it goes 1-1, it’s almost like then they come out with the motivation. If they equalize, they get amped up and come out even harder. I’m just really glad that those didn’t go in.”
The Foxes came to Rye Neck High as one of the hottest teams in Section 1 after losing just one of their first 10 games, but the Panthers (6-4-1) outworked them for their third straight win.
“Anytime the game ends not in your favor, it’s disappointing,” Fox Lane coach J.R. Pouncey said. “But hopefully this is a wakeup call for us. It definitely wasn’t our best game soccer-wise, but they did a great job. They were more disciplined than us today, they outworked us, and I think in the end, that’s what cost us. Our effort wasn’t there, and that’s going to hurt us as we go into the postseason.”
Both teams had some quality scoring chances in the first half, but Rye Neck was able to successfully keep Fox Lane (8-2-1) and top scorer Issac Sanabria off of the board.
Sanabria has at least scored or assisted in each of the Foxes’ eight wins in a tremendous sophomore season, so shutting him down was the Panthers’ top priority.
“He got a lot of shots off,” Shaw said. “He would fake one way, and then get a nice shot off. It’s hard to defend against, because it’s a quick move and a shot. It’s hard to block that.”
Rye Neck was able to go ahead in the 48th minute when Shaw perfectly placed a corner kick into the box that Shotaro Oikawa was able to get his head on.
“That was a good ball from Cameron, and I just hit it,” Oikawa said. “I was free, so it was easy to get in between the defense.”
“They obviously have some guys who can attack the goal on set pieces,” Pouncey said. “Obviously, there was a miscommunication. Two guys marked the same guy, and the one who scored was left open. We had some other guys not do what they’re supposed to do, and anytime that you give up a free header like that within your six-yard box, the result is not going to be too good.”
Takuno Nishimura nearly extended the Panthers’ lead to two goals in the 54th minute, but Fox Lane goalkeeper Jordan Pasetsky got a fingertip on the shot to deflect it just wide. From there, the opportunities all belonged to the Foxes.
In the 64th minute, Sanabria hit the crossbar, and in the 68th, he banged a shot off of the post. Owen Azrak beat the Rye Neck defense on a run in the 72nd minute, but his shot whizzed wide by a foot or so.
Angelo Spedafino made six saves in the shutout.
“We’ve been on a winning streak,” Shaw said. “We’ve been playing much, much better soccer than before. We used to have inconsistencies in the game, let up stupid goals, but we’re definitely picking it up.”
• Here’s Shaw talking about what turned out to be the game-winning goal. “I typically try to hit it to the same place every time so that my team can predict where it’s going to go and get in the right place,” he said. “I hit it right to Sho, and he got nice contact on it.”
• After failing to qualify for sectionals last season, it has been quite the turnaround season for the Foxes. They might not play the most difficult schedule in the section, but they’ve already more than doubled their win total from last season. This loss will sting, but they’re still in position for a good seed, and Pouncey hopes that this will serve as an important lesson moving forward. “When we were successful, it was because we were able to get the ball wide, knock the ball in and get some runs in,” he said. “I think on the type of field like this and the way that their formation is and how they play, that was going to be key for us to put the ball in the back of the net. We didn’t capitalize on our chances.”
• The biggest key for Fox Lane has been Sanabria, who has become one of the top scorers in Section 1 this season. He’s very crafty with the ball and has a rocket for a right leg, but Pouncey didn’t sound especially pleased with his effort today. I thought he definitely created some dangerous opportunities, but there were times when he seemed to let his frustrations take him out of the game. “That’s always been one of the things with him,” Pouncey said. “He’s very hard on himself, and when one thing goes wrong, it kind of builds on the next. That’s one of the things that we’ve been working on with him. He had a very off day today, and for someone who we look to when we’re not playing our best, he usually finds a way to put the ball in the back of the net.”
• While I think that Fox Lane definitely has some work to do to be considered a viable threat to make a run in Class AA, Rye Neck could be very dangerous in Class B. The Panthers have lost some games that I’m sure they wish that they could have back, but they’ve shown some glimpses, such as today’s win and an OT win over Valhalla, which is currently the No. 2 ranked team in Class B. With three straight wins, they seem to be building some momentum, and I’m pretty convinced that they could at least hang with any team in the class. “It was a huge game for us,” Shaw said. “We only needed one more game to qualify for sectionals. We’re on a winning streak right now, so this game was huge for us.”
MORE RESULTS FROM SATURDAY
Suffern was able to turn its unpleasant fortunes around with a 1-0 win over visiting Clarkstown South Saturday.
The Mounties started the season with a promising 3-1 record, but soon after suffered tough losses against Spring Valley and Clarkstown North, and also tied with North Rockland.
The win against the Vikings is what Suffern needed to get its momentum going in the right direction.
“We started off the season pretty good, but we have been struggling lately,” coach Bob Walkley said. “I’m happy we were able to come out with this win to kind of stop the bleeding.”
The Mounties’ George Paljusevic scored the lone goal off of Byran Wicks’ assist 20 minutes into the game.
Suffern goalie Max Gilberg had five saves. Clarkstown South goalie Ian Danahy had six.
Best of the rest: Shotaro Oikawa scored on header off of Cameron Shaw’s corner kick in the 48th minute of Rye Neck’s 1-0 win over visiting Fox Lane. … Jon Cabeca had two goals for in Briarcliff’s 2-1 overtime win over visiting Port Chester. …Chris Coughlan had two goals for the Pearl River in the 3-1 win at Rye. … Fernando Doctors scored the game-winner for Hackley in its 3-2 win over visiting Dalton. … Ricarti Basso had three goals and two assists in Pelham’s 5-1 win at home over Hastings. … Javier Gonzalez made seven saves for Lakeland in a 2-0 win over visiting John Jay. … Nick Tunic scored in Mamaroneck’s 1-0 win at Massapequa, which is currently ranked fifth in New York state. The Tigers are ranked ninth. … Greeley beat Harrison 3-2. … Putnam Valley beat Panas 2-0.
Video by Vincent Z. Mercogliano