SPRING VALLEY —For nearly a month and a half, it looked as if Spring Valley had positioned itself for a League 4-A title.
The Tigers went on a streak in which they rattled off 10 consecutive wins and earned a top 10 ranking in New York state. But one game can sometimes change everything, and that’s what happened on Friday when Spring Valley hosted reigning league champ North Rockland.
“It was very important, because now we can come back to win the league championship,” junior forward Javier Salguero said. “We got another shot at them, and showed them that we are the better team.”
The Tigers handled North Rockland in their first meeting on Oct. 1, but Spring Valley’s unexpected loss to Ramapo on Wednesday left the door open for the Red Raiders to make their move. They did just that with a 2-1 win on Friday, with senior Chris Aherne netting a penalty kick with just over 10 minutes remaining to move North Rockland (8-4-1) into first place.
“It was obviously nerve-wrecking,” Aherne said. “I knew it was a big game. They had beaten us earlier in the year and we both had one loss in the league, so I knew I had to come up clutch for my team, and I put it in the corner.”
The loss puts North Rockland in the driver’s seat in League 4-A with a loss and a tie in league play and two more league games to play. If the Red Raiders win out, they’ll take the title again, but Spring Valley (10-3) is still alive in case they falter with two league losses and two more league games to play.
“We were looking to finish the season strong going into sectionals,” Spring Valley coach Ryan Marcus said. “I think it’s not because of a lack of effort or focus these two games. We just got into battles, and like I’ve been telling the kids all year, when you get into close games, anything can happen. We were just on the wrong end both games.”
The Tigers started fast, with Kevin Quito finding Rooben Michel for a header in just the second minute.
“It was a corner, and (Michel) got free at the back post and they headed it,” Aherne said. “It was a nice finish. We got off to a slow start, but we got into the game and played well for the rest.”
Spring Valley took a 1-0 lead into halftime, but North Rockland struck quickly after the break.
Salguero and John Salto played cat and mouse with the Tigers’ defense in the opening minute of the second half, with Salguero finding the back of the net for the equalizer.
“It started from the midfield, where John started taking the ball,” Salguero said. “He passed it to me, I took it up a little further, and he continued his run. I passed it back, and then the man I had went with John. I was just wide open, so he split them and I had a great open shot.”
The game remained tied for the majority of the second half, but a controversial foul call inside of the Spring Valley box set up Aherne for the game-winner.
“To me, it didn’t look like a foul, but we put ourselves in that position,” Marcus said. “Maybe the ref didn’t have the right angle, but we didn’t make a play on the ball and at that point, anything can happen. The kid fell and the call was the call.”
• You hate to see any game end on a PK, and at the time of the call, the Spring Valley bench was up in arms. In my opinion, it better be a very, very obvious foul to call it in that situation, and this one didn’t appear to be blatant. But I could see why the call was made, and after the game, neither coach was faulting the refs for the outcome. “I’m way over here, but from what I saw, Danny (Salto) made a real good play,” North Rockland coach Chris Dwyer said. “He went physical as hard as he could through a ball. It looked like he had the advantage where he was going to be able to take a shot on goal, and they definitely took him down.”
• North Rockland was the cream of the crop in Rockland county last year, but it looked like that distinction belonged to Spring Valley for most of this season. The Tigers had a tremendous run for 10 games in which they seemed to score at will, but this served as a reminder that the Red Raiders could be just as much of a threat in the postseason. “We’re playing a team that is a little bit more physically talented than us, and it was important that we kind of proved to ourselves that we could actually play with a team like that, and beat a team like that,” Dwyer said. “We’ve been competing with teams like that, but we haven’t been able to get over the hump and get a win. So today was a big deal.”
• Having lost to Spring Valley once already this season, North Rockland was well-aware of what they bring to the table. They have some very skilled offensive players, but the Red Raiders pride themselves in playing great defense. “They have three kids in the stat columns that I think all three of them have more goals than we have almost as a team,” Dwyer said. “You have to be conscience of where they are at all times. Rooben (Michel), Karlyl (Simon) and Kevin (Quito) – the three of them are phenomenal talents. The kids are really buying into playing team defense, because one-on-one, we can’t compete with those three. But if everybody collectively is playing defense, then we give ourselves a pretty good shot.”
• Dwyer also sounded very pleased with goalkeeper Brendan Madden, who has shown significant improvements in his first year as a starter. He made nine saves today, including a few key stops late in the game. “Madden played great today,” Dwyer said. “At times, he’s had a couple of mental lapses here and there, but overall on the season, I’m really, really pleased with him. For a junior to step in – and we’ve had some growing pains early – but today he was very sharp.”
• Marcus was quick to make sure that his team wasn’t blaming the officials after the game, repeatedly noting that they put themselves in the position to lose the game. A two-game skid isn’t the end of the world, but after winning 10 straight, it has to be somewhat demoralizing. But if there’s any team in the county that could effectively shut down the Tigers’ potent attack, Marcus knew it would be North Rockland. “You know every year, even if North Rockland is lacking some firepower up top, they’re going to be strong in the goal and strong in the back,” he said. “We knew we weren’t going to have many opportunities, and we knew that the limited opportunities that we were going to have, we had to finish. Unfortunately, we didn’t really have too many good looks at the goal, except for early in the game, and the keeper made some nice saves at the end.”
MORE RESULTS FROM FRIDAY
Dobbs Ferry changed its tactics halfway through the game to neutralize Hastings’ speedy forwards, and the Eagles went on to post a 2-1 win at home Friday.
They found themselves trailing within 15 minutes of the start of the match when Hastings’ Jack Berritt connected on a pass from Will Berritt.
Already having lost to the Yellow Jackets earlier this season, Eagles captains Daniel Lilling and Thomas Newman asked more out of their teammates. And the talk worked.
“We’ve lost four straight games earlier this season and we’ve been working on different ways to score,” coach Craig Mach said. “The captains did a great job of implementing what we’ve practiced on the practice field into the game today.”
Lilling found Austin Glickman for Dobbs Ferry’s first goal, and Lorenzo Girotto scored the second before halftime.
To keep the Yellow Jackets from tying the game in the second half, the Eagles played their defense high and kept Hastings’ forwards at bay.
The tactic drew some key offside penalties, which kept the Yellow Jackets from being aggressive.
Henry Tashman had eight saves for Dobbs Ferry. Lee Owens had five for Hastings.
Best of the rest: Woodlands’ Prince Kermue had two goals and two assists in a 6-0 win at Roosevelt. … Mahopac’s Brett Mattos scored within two minutes of overtime in a 1-0 win over visiting Lourdes. … Edgemont’s Tom Young had a hat trick in the 6-2 win at Scarsdale B. … Demetri Boumis had three goals and an assist in Sleepy Hollow’s 5-1 win over visiting Saunders. … Henry Carmel had a goal and two assists in Bronxville’s 3-0 win over visiting Eastchester. … Ben Ovetsky had a goal and two assists in Irvington’s 3-0 win over visiting Ardsley. … Suffern beat Clarkstown North 1-0 in overtime. … Mamaroneck beat Scarsdale 3-0. … Arlington B beat Brewster 2-1 in overtime. …. YMA beat Tuckahoe 3-0. … Ramapo and Clarkstown South tied 0-0. … Pearl River tied Tappan Zee 0-0. Both teams are tied for first in League 4-B with one league game each to play.
Photos by Peter Carr/Video by Vincent Z. Mercogliano