Sectionals: Unexpected Class A final has plenty of intrigue

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I’m heading up to Arlington in a little while for tonight’s Class B and Class A finals, so follow me on Twitter @vzmercogliano for full coverage of each game. For now, here is a story that I put together on tonight’s unexpected Class A final: 

Coming off of a win that many would call the biggest for the Pelham boys soccer program in the last decade, coach Terence Huvane made sure that his team understood that its job wasn’t complete yet.

The Pelicans upset top-seeded Byram Hills in the Class A semifinals on Wednesday, putting them into Friday night’s section title game against a Pearl River team that they beat by two goals just two weeks ago.

“We don’t feel overconfident at all,” Huvane said. “We put that to bed this week the minute that we found out we had Pearl River. They belong there, just like we do. They’re a very good program.”

Pelham, the No. 4 seed in Class A, has been one of the hottest teams in the section in the past few weeks, thanks in large part to getting some of its key players back from injury. The Pelicans were 3-5-1 at one point, but since getting senior striker Aidan Murray and junior center back Otavio Basso back, they have rattled off 10 straight wins.

The return of two of their stars has allowed everything else to fall into place.

“I think everyone is starting to realize what role they have on the team,” Murray said. “They’re not being selfish and trying to do more. I think everyone just knows what they have to do, and we’re starting to do that. Ten in a row is pretty awesome.”

pr3The third-seeded Pirates earned their trip to the title game by shuting out a Keio team in the semis that had been scoring in bunches.

“Our intensity was at a very high level, and our physical play was at a very high level,” Pearl River coach Damon O’Keefe said. “A lot of teams sat back on them, but we went in with a game plan of, ‘Let’s not sit back. Let’s attack.’ ”

Now, Pearl River will get another shot at a Pelham team that O’Keefe called, “the best team that we saw all year.”

The key will be stopping the combination of Murray and senior midfielder Charlie Livingstone, who have accounted for six of Pelham’s nine postseason goals. They’ll have to get through the strength of this Pirates team, which has been their back line of Matt Neroda, Taylor Rudloff and Vincenzo Galvano. Pearl River has 10 shutouts this season and has allowed just 12 goals.

“We’ve been preaching this all year,” O’Keefe said. “We put a lot of pressure on our guys in the back to perform well, and they’ve handled it.”

Both coaches point to the battle in the midfield as being the key to capturing a title, which will ultimately come down to winning 50-50 balls and sheer hustle.

“These games are won and lost in the midfield,” said Huvane, mentioning Jefferson Santos, Ricarti Basso and Eddie Livingstone as his key glue guys in the middle. “It’s really important to establish a midfield presence. Those guys don’t catch all of the headlines, but they put on their hard hats and go to work.”

File photos from The Journal News

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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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