Here’s my story on Byram Hills’ 2-1 win over Eastchester in a Class A semi:
ARMONK — No soccer team in Section 1 has been as successful as Byram Hills over the course of the last decade, but midway through the 2014 campaign, the Bobcats could feel themselves slipping into mediocrity.
“We were 5-5 in the season and we had a meeting,” senior midfielder Cole Tannor said. “We got the guys together and said, ‘Look, this is not where we want to be.’ We were breaking even, and I think the record of the teams that we were about to play was 52-9. We knew it was only going to get harder, but we pulled together.”
Since then, Byram has rattled off nine straight wins, with its 2-1 victory over No. 8 Eastchester in the Class A semifinals on Wednesday putting the Bobcats into their sixth section final in nine years.
They’ll play the No. 11 Yorktown in the section final at Arlington High on Sunday at 6 p.m.
“We knew the reputation of the alums,” Tannor said. “We were getting texts saying, ‘What’s going on?’ and we pulled through. We knew the team had the talent, and everything started clicking. Now, we’re just rolling.”
Without the services of leading scorer Bennett Kramer, who suffered a hamstring injury in the quarterfinals on Monday, fourth-seeded Byram Hills (14-5) was still able to strike quickly.
In the ninth minute, Payton Levine found a wide open Tannor on a free kick for a 1-0 lead.
Austin Capasso answered with the equalizer for the Eagles (12-6-1) on a pretty volley in the 12th minute, but Brandon Drossman came off the bench to score the go-ahead goal for Byram just a minute later.
“I came on around 10 minutes in, and it was already 1-1,” Drossman said. “The ball came to me and I just hit, and it went in right over the goalie’s head. After that, we just had to defend.”
“Payton, Ross (Weinfeld), (Conor) Taub all played a great game. Andy Cohen is a great player,” Drossman said. “Everyone puts in a shift and everyone comes in on defense. Defense is our forte, definitely.”
Kramer isn’t expected to be available for the section final, but Byram has been finding ways to overcome adversity all season.
“Bennett is one of our best attacking players and one of our best scorers, (but) we knew we had the talent to get the goals from elsewhere,” Tannor said. “Drossman, Ben Weinstein, who has been tearing it up in sectionals, and we have the talent. We knew that, and I think guys are starting to step up.”
Here’s Chad Jennings’ story on Mamaroneck advancing past Port Chester on PKs in a Class AA semi:
PURCHASE — When the final penalty kick rippled the back of the net, the Mamaroneck boys soccer team came sprinting into chaos. Some came from midfield, most came from the sideline, and they all converged on senior Jack Green, who dealt the final blow in a Class AA semifinal win against Port Chester at Purchase College.
In that bedlam, there was one exception. Tigers’ goalie Thomas Orgielewicz hardly moved. He walked casually from his spot on the baseline, smiling rather than sprinting.
“I can’t feel my legs,” he explained. “They’re really sore.”
A scoreless game until penalty kicks hinged on the occasionally spectacular work of the lanky senior who drew repeated chants of “Orgie! Orgie!” from the crowd.
He was credited with seven saves on goal, 12 touches in all, and he was at his best late in the contest, when it was clear one goal would be too many. There was a diving stop with 16 minutes left in regulation, another diving save near the end of the first overtime, and a leaping grab to take away a scoring opportunity midway through the second overtime.
When it came time for penalty kicks, Orgielewicz saved the first shot he saw, and that was all No. 3 Mamaroneck needed. All five Tigers scored, including Orielewicz himself, who took an in-game penalty kick for the first time.
“I’ve been practicing since last year to be taking penalty kicks,” he said. “I loved it. I’ve been practicing for two years for this moment.”
He was ready for more than one kick.
Taking advantage of the quick and predictable turf, No. 2 Port Chester was able to focus its offensive attack on its go-to weapons: Steven Hernandez and Luis Morales. Keying on those two, the Rams pressured Orgielewicz all game.
Perhaps his finest moment came at the very end of regulation, when Hernandez broke past the Tigers defense only to have Orgielewicz poke the ball away. Orgielewicz then corralled the loose ball just moments before Morales could take a clean shot. Morales got a red card on the play.
“It’s not just the first save that kid makes,” Tigers coach Rich Becker said. “It’s the second and third save that he makes that’s just extraordinary.”
After losing a heartbreaking semifinal last year, Mamaroneck advanced to its first section final in Becker’s 15 years with the Tigers. They’ll play No. 5 John Jay-East Fishkill Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Arlington High School.
“It’s all we wanted this entire year,” Orgielewicz said. “It’s been building up to this.”
Here is my story on Yorktown’s 1-0 win over Somers in a Class A semi:
SOMERS — With about 10 minutes to play in Yorktown’s Class A semifinal against No. 7 Somers on Wednesday, Mohamed Hamza felt a tug on his right hamstring.
The Huskers’ star striker had been dealing with the injury for the past few days, and when it tightened up late in the game, he signaled to coach Ed Polchinski for a substitute.
Luckily for No. 11 Yorktown, the ball ended up at Hamza’s feet before he had a chance to be replaced. In the 72nd minute, he buried the lone goal in a 1-0 win, sending the Huskers to their first section final since 1990.
“I tried to fight through it, but on the play before, I pulled even worse and I asked for a sub,” Hamza said. “But the ball never went out of play, I got the chance, and I put it away. Even my teammate was standing at the half (waiting to enter the game), but the ball simply never went out of play.”
Marcello Spiniello set up Hamza’s goal, as he weaved through two defenders and took a shot that deflected off of Somers goalkeeper Kenny Kurtz and went in.
“I made a run across,” Hamza said. “(Spiniello) saw the run, he put it through and flicked it on. The defender had it right in front of him – it seemed like he fumbled it a bit – so I took advantage of it. I took a touch and put it in the back of the net.”
Hamza began the season as a midfielder, but has been on fire since being moved up to forward.
“Playing from the midfield, I have a different style of play,” Hamza said. “I have maintain possession more, and also defend back, so I didn’t get as many chances as I did when I went up to forward. It sort of helped the team and everyone fell into place.”
Yorktown goalkeeper Jacob Braham, who has come up big throughout the postseason, made 11 saves to preserve the shutout.
“He’s been amazing,” Hamza said. “He’s kept us in every game that we’ve had so far. During this game, we had some parts where we were getting attacked a lot and sitting back defending, but Jacob saved us a lot.”
The Huskers (11-8-1), who spent much of the season under .500, will play No. 4 Byram Hills in the Class A final at Arlington High on Sunday at 6 p.m.
“We struggled over the regular season,” Hamza said. “It took us awhile to get in and fix things. We knew we deserved to be where we are right now, so we turned it around and it’s paid off.”
Here are stats from the other three semifinals from Wednesday:
John Jay-EF 3, Fox Lane 2: In a Class AA semifinal at No. 5 John Jay-EF, Dan Figarella scored the winner for the Patriots in the 64th minute. Owen Azrak and Juan Rivera each scored to help No. 8 Fox Lane jump out to a 2-0 lead in the first six minutes. John Jay-EF (14-4-1) will play No. 3 Mamaroneck in the section final at Arlington High on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
Rye Neck 0, Valhalla 0, 2 OT: In a Class B semifinal at No. 4 Rye Neck, the Panthers advanced on penalty kicks, 7-6, with Noah Klur netting the winning PK. Rye Neck’s Rich Barrios and Valhalla’s Michael Perna each made 10 saves. Rye Neck (11-5-3) will play No. 3 Bronxville in the section final at Arlington High on Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
“It was the most intense game we were in all year with what was on the line and facing a great team like Valhalla,” Rye Neck co-coach Bryan Iacovelli said. “It was a great 110 minutes of soccer on both sides and a gut-wrenching PK shootout. We’re proud of our guys for how they’ve come together this year and have fought through adversity together.
“Valhalla is a class team in a class program led by a coach (Sandro Prosperino) who is a class act. Both teams deserved to win the game today.”
Bronxville 2, Edgemont 1, 2 OT: In a Class B semifinal at No. 3 Bronxville, Sam Aherne netted the golden goal in the 109th minute, just one minute before the game would have went to penalty kicks. Ricardo Timoney scored for the Broncos (14-3-2) in the 17th minute and Drew Simon equalized for No. 7 Edgemont with five minutes to play in regulation.
“Michael Crawford played him a ball up the left side, and then Sam took on the defender, got in behind him, and then just pushed it past the Edgemont goalie,” Bronxville coach Donny Lucas said of Aherne’s game-winner.
“It was a well-fought game by both teams. It’s just one of those games that unfortunately someone had to lose, but both teams should be proud of the effort that they gave.”