There were a handful of crazy first round games yesterday, and we were treated to some very dramatic finishes. In Class AA, No. 14 Greeley knocked off third-seeded Yorktown in double overtime and No. 10 Scarsdale scored twice in the final 20 minutes against No. 7 North Rockland to overcome a 2-1 deficit. In Class A, No. 2 Lakeland had to sweat in a scoreless game against No. 18 John Jay until a goal finally came in the 72nd minute and No. 9 Eastchester slipped past No. 8 Nyack on PKs. And in Class B, two-time defending champ Blind Brook avoided a colossal upset when Joe DiBerardino scored the golden goal in OT against No. 14 Putnam Valley. Those were all great games, but the wildest of the day had to be at Mamaroneck.
The second-seeded Tigers came into the postseason with an unblemished 16-0 record and seemed destined for a trip to the Class AA section final, but Ossining had other plans. The 15th-seeded Pride didn’t live up to expectations during the regular season, but they picked up their play towards the end of the year to earn a berth into the postseason. No one – myself included – expected them to give Mamaroneck much of a game, but the Tigers got more than they bargained for in what turned out to be a 4-3 OT thriller.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been involved in a game with that many emotional swings,” Mamaroneck coach Rich Becker said. “There were two times during that game when we thought our season was over.”
Ossining scored the go-ahead goal with less than a minute remaining in regulation to take a 3-2 lead, so it’s hard to blame Becker for fearing for the worst. Incredibly, senior striker Nick Tunic was able to net the equalizer with about 10 seconds remaining to force overtime and keep Mamaroneck’s season alive.
“I did,” Becker said when asked he saw the season flash before his eyes when Ossining took the lead late. “But at the same time, we were saying, ‘Don’t quit. We have 45 seconds left.’ We knew we could score, but I think most people would tell you that the odds weren’t great.”
The Pride managed to jump on top early by using their athleticism and coming at the Tigers head on, which is what Mamaroneck has been known to do to opponents for most of this season.
“They wanted it,” Becker said. “They were playing very direct. Everything was over the top, and they’re very fast and athletic. They had success outhustling us to balls. We had to calm it down and play to feet.”
“Amazing effort from Nicky,” Becker said. “He just doesn’t quit.”
After Tunic saved the day in regulation, it was Nelson Barrios who came through for the Tigers with the golden goal.
“We finally said, ‘Hey, guys. We have to utilize what they give us,’ ” Becker said. “We got a lot of flank services from playing the ball wide, and we really started to put that together in overtime. We kept it simple.”
After outscoring opponents 49-5 through its first 12 games, Mamaroneck has hit a bit of a rough patch with three overtime games in its last five matches. The Tigers have managed to come out on top in each, but they’re realizing now that the path to where they want to go won’t be easy.
“The first time around when we played people, no one knew what we had. Now, they know what we have, and we have to find other ways to do things,” Becker said. “You need that wakeup call. You are not superior. You’re not invincible, and this showed them that.”
League I-A proves it’s the best in the section: I got a great tweet this morning from Carmel coach Mike Gizzo, who pointed out that four of the five Class AA teams from League I-A remain alive – and they’re all on the same side of the bracket. Four was the maximum amount of teams from the league that could have advanced since Carmel was playing John Jay-EF, and now we have a mini-tourney of sorts just for teams from the league.
League champ Arlington will host Ketcham in the quarters, while JJEF will host Mahopac, and the winners will play each other in the semis. That guarantees that one team from the league will compete in the section final, which is how it should be. Those four won their first round games by a combined score of 19-5 – and it was Carmel who scored all five of the goals allowed in its game with JJEF. League II-B (Mamaroneck, Scarsdale, White Plains, New Rochelle and Mount Vernon) and League III-C (Byram Hills, Port Chester, Greeley, Keio and Ossining) could each make a case as the second-best league in Section 1, but it’s hard to argue with League I-A as the cream of the crop.
Hat tricks galore: One thing that was clear based on yesterday’s action was that there are some very capable goal-scorers in Section 1 this season. We had seven – that’s right, seven – players register a hat trick in the first round, which is definitely the most that I can ever remember in one day.
Along with Tunic, Carmel’s Vasiliy Shevelchinsky, Byram Hills’ David Lachs, Pelham’s Charlie Livingstone, Edgemont’s Javier Casado, Briarcliff’s Caleb Asamoah and North Salem’s Connor Murphy. The most impressive individual effort may have come from Murphy, who scored all five goals for North Salem in its win over Pawling. We may not see another hat trick this postseason as the teams dwindle down and the games become less lopsided, but hats off to the big goal scorer’s from Friday.
Vin’s picks: I went 21 for 24 with my first round picks, which is a pretty good start. I called a few upsets – like Greeley over Yorktown and PC over Spring Valley – but as I predicted, it was mostly home teams moving on in Class A and Class B. Combined between the two classes, there were only three road teams that moved on – two No. 9 seeds and a 10. Every team seeded sixth or higher in A and B is still alive, so it’s not like I was making many bold predictions. But I think it’s become pretty clear who the better teams are in each class, and that’s how I decided on my picks. We’ll see if I’m as accurate in the quarterfinal round on Monday. (… I’ll have previews for those games posted tomorrow afternoon.)