SHRUB OAK – Less than two minutes away from the end of the third overtime period in a scoreless game with few scoring chances for either side, the Lakeland coaching staff was already preparing the penalty-kick takers list.
However, almost out of nowhere, Julia Gomez scored in dramatic fashion to give eighth-seeded Lakeland a tight 1-0 win over visiting ninth-seeded Rye in a Class A first-round game on Saturday.
Just like that, the list became an afterthought.
“It was amazing just that I could bring my team that glory,” Gomez said. “It was just unbelievable.”
Rye dominated possession to start the game, but after the first fifteen minutes, Lakeland was able to calm the Garnets down and play a more even game.
“We just contained the ball,” Lakeland senior captain Alexia Libretti said. “They got tired and they had to keep subbing out.”
In overtime, the Garnets controlled most of the play, but were unable to generate any real scoring chances. In the second overtime, Rye’s Deborah Ludman nearly beat Lakeland goalkeeper Marina DeSantis to a loose ball in front of the net, but was called for offsides.
“We did possess the ball a lot, in the offensive third, but we just couldn’t find the back of the net,” Rye head coach Rich Savage said. “They finished on the opportunity they had, and we didn’t finish on the opportunities we had.”
Lakeland will play at undefeated Somers, the defending state champions, in the quarterfinals on Tuesday. The Tuskers beat Sleepy Hollow 5-0 in their first-round game.
Player of the game: Julia Gomez, Lakeland. The sophomore forward capitalized when it mattered most, scoring on Lakeland’s only shot on goal in overtime.
Turning point: With less than two minutes left in the five-minute, sudden death overtime period, Lakeland’s Kaitlin Bloss crossed the ball to the top of the box. Katherine Maurno got a head on the ball and Gomez latched onto it. With Rye goalkeeper Maddy Eck coming out to try to punch the ball out, Gomez touched the ball past the diving goalkeeper and got just enough on the ball to put it past the line for the lone goal of the game.
(Click here to see video of the goal)
Stat line: For Lakeland, Gomez had a goal, Maurno had an assist and DeSantis made 10 saves. For Rye, Eck made five saves.
Quotable: “Age doesn’t matter; it’s all about your skill and the experience you have,” Gomez said of the team’s youth. “People can underestimate us, but at the end of the day, it’s the scoreboard that matters.”