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MAMARONECK — Horace Greeley had heard all about Mamaroneck’s potent offense and knew that everyone expected its run to end when it visited the undefeated Tigers for a Class AA semifinal on Wednesday.
The thing is, the Quakers had other plans.
“We know the way that we have to play to win,” Greeley goalkeeper Jordan Rosenthal said. “It’s not about cheeky play, it’s not about these skillful players taking everyone on one-on-one – it’s about the entire team pressuring the entire other team, and not giving them any space to breathe.”
The 14th-seeded Quakers continued their Cinderella run with a 1-0 win over second-seeded Mamaroneck, handing the Tigers their first shutout of the season and clinching their second trip to the Class AA title game in three years.
Greeley (10-5-4) won a section championship in 2011 as the 13-seed. It will play top-seeded Arlington in the Class AA final at Arlington on Saturday at 6 p.m.
“It’s an incredible feeling to shutout a team who is 18-0 and who has been putting up goals in bunches, but I really have to hand it to my defense,” said Rosenthal, who finished with six saves. “They helped me do what I have to do.”
With Mamaroneck’s top scorer Nick Tunic nursing an ankle injury, the Quakers were able effectively slow down the Tigers’ attack with their high pressure defense.
Tunic, who has scored 24 goals this season, came on early in the second half, but was clearly hobbled.
“I have no idea how Tunic plays or what he’s known for the second that I walk on the field. It doesn’t matter who, because game in and game out, different players will score goals,” said Rosenthal. “You have to be prepared for every single player up against you.”
While Mamaroneck (18-1) struggled without Tunic in the early going, Greeley capitalized in the 16th minute when Adam Siff found the back of the net.
“It was a throw-in that came in off of a head, hit one of their defender’s thighs and just came right to me,” he said. “I saw that the goalie was off-center, and I just put it to the left.”
The Tigers nearly equalized with a flurry in the 19th minute, but Emmet Gaffney’s header hit the post and Juan Giraldo’s breakaway shot sailed wide.
Mamaroneck’s best chance to score came in the 65th minute when it was awarded a penalty kick, but Maximo Vasquez’s shot was off target.
“Early on, we had the momentum,” Siff said. “We came out strong. We put in a few efforts that almost got in – Matt Neuberger’s bicycle kick almost went in – and then started to gain possession as we started to drop back in. Once we got that goal, we played much more defensive-minded to try and keep them from equalizing.”
Making the Quakers’ run even more impressive is the fact that they’ve been hit with the injury bug of late, most recently losing starting sweeper Greg Ginsberg to a broken leg.
“We have players ready to come off of the sideline, and who have been ready the entire season, and who we trust,” Rosenthal said. “For them to come on and play incredibly, it doesn’t even surprise us. We know exactly what we have to do, and if a player goes down, the team has to make up for it. And we have.”
Next up, Greeley will take on top-seeded Arlington with a championship on the line, but this team is used to being in the underdog role.
“Coach (Bobby) Herodes actually lives up in Arlington and knows all of those boys really well,” Siff said. “He said he’s going to come up with a great plan, and we all have confidence that we can get it done.”
Video by Vincent Z. Mercogliano/The Journal News