Westchester vs. Rockland Challenge today at Lakeland HS

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Today is a big one for Section 1 soccer, as Lakeland will host 10 teams as part of the first annual Westchester vs. Rockland Challenge. I’ll be heading up shortly to provide live updates and full coverage all day, so follow me on Twitter @vzmercogliano to keep track of the action.

Even better than following along from home would be coming to the event. There will be NO entrance fee to get in, but there will be a donation tent at the front entrance. There will also be T-shirts on sale for $15 each. All of the proceeds will be donated to the American Cancer Society, so I’d encourage everybody to come out and support a great cause. Oh, and the soccer should be pretty good, too.

Here is the full schedule for the day, with my picks in bold:

Nyack vs. Valhalla, 10 a.m.
Tappan Zee vs. Bronxville, 12:15 p.m.
Suffern vs. Byram Hills, 2:30 p.m.
North Rockland vs. Mamaroneck, 4:45 p.m.
Pearl River vs. Lakeland, 7 p.m.

I’ll post brief recaps of each game here, so check back for those:

VALHALLA 2, NYACK 1: Steven Kopicki netted the game-winner in the 58th minute to give Valhalla a 2-1 win over Nyack in the opening game of the day at the inaugural Westchester vs. Rockland Challenge at Lakeland High on Monday.

“It was quite nice,” Kopicki said. “It was a good play from Joel (Viveros) down the wing. He crossed it down, and luckily I got the shot off of the post and in.”

The Vikings (10-3-2) managed just five shots on goal, but cashed in on two of them.

They took a 1-0 lead when Rodrigo Suarez-Navarro followed his own shot and banged home the rebound. The Indians (10-5) tied it at 1-1 with four minutes remaining in the first half on an Ian Leinbach goal.

“Our philosophy is to be patient,” Kopicki said. “That’s what we did, and eventually, we got the goal.”

Alex Briganti made seven saves for Valhalla, while Alex Wilson stopped three shots for Nyack.

BRONXVILLE 3, TAPPAN ZEE 0: Bronxville didn’t waste much time getting on the board against one of the hottest goalkeepers in Section 1, with Henry Carmel and Sam Aherne each scoring in the first 15 minutes against Tappan Zee on Monday at the inaugural Westchester vs. Rockland Challenge at Lakeland High.

“It’s always the first 10-15 minutes that can destroy a team if someone scores, so it was big,” senior defender Matthew Wagner said. “We played the ball around, we kept it on the ground, we didn’t do as many long balls as we usually do, so it was a good half. We had most of the possession.”

The Broncos (10-2-1) got an unassisted goal in the 10th minute from Carmel, and then Aherne blasted a rocket from over 30 yards out in the 14th on their way to a 3-0 win.

“That was fantastic,” Wagner said of Aherne’s goal. “He’s only a sophomore, so in the next coming years, he should be good for the program.”

Matthew McCloskey added an insurance goal in the 75th minute on an assist from Will Hutchinson.

Juan Umana finished with seven saves for the Dutchmen (10-3-2), and sophomore Joe Pepe made four saves for Bronxville. Pepe has three shutouts in four games since taking over for injured starter Jack Connors.

“Jack’s injury was pretty unfortunate,” Wagner said. “I think after Jack’s injury, it gave us a little more inspiration to step up. After losing a five-year varsity player, we had to step up and defend. We have Pepe, who should be a really good goalkeeper in the coming years, as well.”

BYRAM HILLS 3, SUFFERN 0: Byram Hills has been noted for its defense many times this season, but the Bobcats’ offense continues to breakout thanks to the emergence of David Lachs.

“Our midfield and defense are playing excellent, so they’re just creating opportunities for me,” the senior forward said. “All I have to do is put it away.”

Lachs scored twice in Byram’s 3-0 win over Suffern at the inaugural Westchester vs. Rockland Challenge at Lakeland High on Monday, just two days after his hat trick led the Bobcats to a comeback win at Keio.

Alec Valcich gave Byram a 1-0 lead going into the half after he boomed a goal from close to 30 yards out in the 26th minute, and then Lachs went to work in the second half.

His first goal came in the 47th minute when he split the defense and banked in a shot off of a Suffern defender.

“I got the ball and there was a guy right in my face,” Lachs said. “I just took a touch to the side, and there was no defense there to step up, so I just had an open shot. And I took it.”

Lachs scored again in the 60th minute to keep the Bobcats (13-0-1) unbeaten.

They nearly got tripped up against Keio on Saturday, but scored two goals in the finalseven minutes to avoid the upset and hang on for the 3-2 win.

“We haven’t been down too often this season,” Lachs said. “We let up the (same amount) of goals in one game that we had all season. We didn’t score a goal until there were 15 minutes left in the game, so it just shows our composure.”

MAMARONECK 1, NORTH ROCKLAND 0, 2 OT: The stage was set for a letdown, but Nick Tunic had other plans.

Mamaroneck came into Monday’s Westchester vs. Rockland Challenge at Lakeland High as the only remaining team in Section 1 that had won every game that it played this season. The Tigers just moved into the No. 1 position in the LoHud Power Rankings, but North Rockland gave them everything that they could handle.

The Red Raiders held Mamaroneck scoreless over 97 minutes, but Tunic came through with the golden goal in double overtime for the dramatic 1-0 win.

“They played great defense,” the senior striker said. “The goalie (Brendan Madden) had one amazing game, so we have to credit them, but we kept grinding through the whole game and we were able to get the goal in double overtime.”

Madden was outstanding against the explosive Tigers, who came into Monday’s contest having outscored opponents 49-5 through their first 12 games.

Mamaroneck (13-0) had yet to be shutout in the first half of any game this year, but Madden made 15 saves to keep the Tigers off of the scoreboard for two full halves and one overtime period.

“I knew I was going to have to come up with some really big saves,” Madden said. “Whenever they got the ball, I just got ready to make a save. If they shot it, I did what I needed to do.”

The game appeared to be heading for a tie, but Tunic struck in the 97th minute on a feed from Doyle Saez.

“The defender kind of missed the ball, and I had a striker’s instinct,” said Tunic, who now has 19 goals on the season. “I ran onto the ball and finished with my left foot.”

LAKELAND 2, PEARL RIVER 1: It’s been four Columbus Day’s in a row now that Lakeland has played Pearl River, and the Hornets have still yet to lose to the Pirates.

That trend continued on Monday, with host Lakeland holding on for a 2-1 win over the No. 2 team in Class A in the inaugural Westchester vs. Rockland Challenge.

“They have a lot of strength,” junior defender Gino Cassese said. “They’re physical, and they like to keep the ball, so we try to just play our game. Stay composed, keep the ball, play to our attacking players and play our brand of Lakeland soccer.”

The Hornets (11-3) struck first thanks to Cassese’s header in the 13th minute off of Devin Flanagan’s corner kick.

“I knew the play ahead of time because coach was yelling it out, so I knew my positioning and where it was going to go,” Cassese said. “I just stayed in the moment, felt it flip off of my head and go in.”

Pearl River (10-2-2) responded quickly on an unexpected goal from Kevin Doorly in the 27th minute. The freshman had entered the game just a few minutes before, and somehow got his head on Vincenzo Galvano’s corner kick.

“We weren’t really aware of where everyone was going,” Cassese said. “We didn’t really communicate too well. The goalie sort of stayed on his line, and we weren’t ready for the little guy in the middle.”

After going into the half tied at 1-1, Lakeland would take the lead for good in the 55th minute when sophomore Johnny Denis netted his 14th goal of the season on a penalty kick.

“Johnny’s been a great, great asset to the team,” Cassese said. “He’s a great offensive player, and even when he comes back to play defense, he gives us a lot of help. He’s been scoring a lot, getting a lot of assists and he’s really positive.”

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About Author

VINCENT Z. MERCOGLIANO has been with The Journal News and LoHud.com since March 2010. He graduated from New Rochelle High School in 2005 and from Hofstra University in 2009 with a degree in broadcast journalism. He currently covers boys soccer, wrestling and baseball, while assisting with LoHud's Yankees coverage.

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