LAGRANGEVILLE – For years, U.S. Academy teams have been after Mamaroneck striker Juan Giraldo.
Academy rules dictate that any player who plays for one of its affiliates is forbidden from playing any high school sports, and with each passing season, Giraldo elected to remain with the Tigers.
The senior’s stellar high school career came to an end when No. 3 Mamaroneck lost a 2-1 overtime heartbreaker to fifth-seeded John Jay-East Fishkill in Saturday’s Class AA section championship game at Arlington High, but even after the defeat, Giraldo said that he wouldn’t change a thing.
“Ever since we were freshmen, I don’t regret a single minute of playing in high school,” Giraldo said. “It just wasn’t our day.”
Giraldo and a talented group of seniors have put the Mamaroneck program back on the map, following up an 18-1 season in 2013 with a trip to the section final this year. But the Patriots (15-4-1) are another highly skilled and experienced team, and they prevailed in the 85th minute when Kevin Turi buried the golden goal on a breakaway opportunity, giving them their first section title since 2008.
“I’ve been struggling a lot lately, so coach (Rob Seipp) has been telling me, ‘Forget about that one. Have a short memory and just go onto the next one,’ ” Turi said. “I was waiting for (another chance), and I pounced on it.”
Orgielewicz had not allowed a goal in any of the Tigers’ previous three playoff games, and finished with eight saves on Saturday.
The senior was playing with a heavy heart after attending his grandfather’s funeral in the morning.
“T.O. has been amazing all year long, and with the stuff that he went through this week, just to be able to play today was amazing,” Mamaroneck coach Rich Becker said. “We’re going to miss him tremendously, along with all of the seniors.”
After a scoreless first half, John Jay-EF struck first in the 68th minute when Nick Dillman’s shot was deflected in. But less than one minute later, Giraldo found Yeison Banegas on a long free kick, who back-healed a pass to Alejandro Lopez for the equalizer.
“Credit to them,” Turi said of Mamaroneck’s quick tying goal. “They’re a phenomenal team and they obviously deserve to be here, just like we did. They came right back and it was really a great game to be a part of.”
The Tigers (13-3-4) will graduate 16 seniors in all from a group that put the team in position to win its first sectional title since 1971.
“We’ve become a family, and they’ve become a family on their own, even without the encouragement from us,” Becker said. “They’ve really come together so well and gelled together. They’re together on the field and off the field, and that hasn’t always been that way at Mamaroneck. They really have come a long way as a group and as a program, and our program is where it is because of them.”