The schedule (Saturday, 10/31)
Class B: No. 2 Albertus Magnus vs. No. 1 Irvington, 10 a.m.
Class A: No. 2 Pearl River vs. No. 1 Somers, noon
Class AA: No. 3 North Rockland vs. No. 1 John Jay-East Fishkill, 2:30 p.m.
Where: Arlington High School
Class AA final: John Jay-East Fishkill vs. North Rockland
Key Players: North Rockland — Amber Alfonzo, Taylor Aylmer, Kelly Brady, Arianna Marino, Daniella Devaney, Ashley Morales, Nicole Solicito. John Jay-East Fishkill — Erin Theiller, Melissa McHugh, Shea Olszewski, Claire Thoma, Rachel Martin, Brianna Durland.
Outlook: These two teams met in the semifinals last year, with North Rockland winning in penalty kicks after drawing with East-Fishkill 2-2 in regulation. One big difference for the Red Raiders; they will be without several key players, including forward Naya Rivera and defender Brianna Williams, who are both out with torn ACLs.
Thankfully for North Rockland, recent JV call-up Kelly Brady (only an eighth-grader) has immediately emerged as a dangerous option up front; she already has three goals and an assist in three playoff games so far. In addition to her, as well as the play of freshman goalkeeper Nicole Solicito, who has done a solid job in place of the injured Jenna Braunagel, the key players will be the senior duo of forward Amber Alfonzo and midfielder Taylor Aylmer. They have been in several big-game situations in their high school careers, and they will need to be as sharp as ever for this game.
John Jay-East Fishkill was a bit of a surprise to be the top-seed, but they have more than lived up to the billing. They are coming off of a 3-1 win over Clarkstown South, and have several options up front, including Melissa McHugh, Shea Olszewski and Khiara Young. However, arguably the best player is midfielder Erin Theiller. Defensively, the backline is very strong and Brianna Durland is solid in net.
This is a 50-50 game, but my gut tells me to go with the team that has proved more in big games such as these.
Prediction: North Rockland 3, John Jay-East Fishkill 2
Quotable: “We know (John Jay-East Fishkill) is a very strong team, they are very well-coached and are well-diciplined. We have a lot of respect for them, and we know that in order to win, it’s going to be a battle. When you lose players and they were major players, it’s hard physically and mentally. Our other kids had to get used to playing with new players, we had to change some things around and everyone has responded really well.” – North Rockland head coach Vinny Apicella.
“We have a scouting report on them, but they’ve had major injuries and had to shuffle their lineup and bring in new people. So I’ll rely on people I know who’ve played them to get some more information.” – John Jay-East Fishkill head coach CJ Greenwood to the Poughkeepsie Journal.
Class A final: Somers vs. Pearl River
Key Players: Somers — Hannon Eberts, Melina Couzis, Jenna Menta, CIara Ostrander, Mary Murphy, Claire Mensi. Pearl River — Lauren Gallagher, Tara Guilfoyle, Shaelynn Guilfoyle, Caitlin Tyer, Cate Feerick, Lauren Zimnoch.
Outlook: Similar to the Class AA match-up, this is also a semifinal rematch, which Somers won 2-1. Somers hasn’t lost a game since then; in fact, the Tuskers haven’t lost in nearly two seasons, and are now riding a winning streak that has gone over 40 games. Offense is the calling card for Somers. Forward Hannon Eberts is truly dynamic talent, and her speed and skill will give any team major problems. In addition to her, Melina Couzis is masterful in the midfield, and can take control of a game by herself. In addition to all of the weapons Somers has, they are also solid defensively, led by Mary Murphy and goalkeeper Lizzy Hanley.
While Somers has the best offense in Section 1, I think Pearl River has the best defense in the area. Head coach Tim Peabody has the team play in a very diciplined system which demands for defenders to constantly support each other. That combination, along with a steller defensive line and arguably the best goalkeeper in Section 1 in Lauren Gallagher, has led to many shutouts this season for the Pirates. The biggest issue the team faced during the regular season was scoring goals, but they have several options up front, and have scored five goals in their last two games, so that part might be coming around.
To me, this is the most intriguing match-up of all three games. In the end, while I think Somers won’t put up video-game numbers, I think they will grind out a hard-earned victory against a tough Pearl River defense for a second consecutive sectional title.
Prediction: Somers 1, Pearl River 0
Quotable: “I think that Pearl River is a tough opponent. They are very tough, have an outstanding goalkeeper, so we’re prepared for a tough game tomorrow. If we just play our game and do the things that we do well, that’s all we can do. We’re not going to change what we do for Pearl River.” – Somers head coach Paul Saia.
“It’s not rocket science for me to say you have to stop Couzis, she’s the distributor; once Eberts is there, it’s over. I think Lauren Zimnoch, who plays stopper for us, is second to none, so I think the match-up is very good. It’s two teams that kind of counter each other; we play our style well, and they play theirs well too. I’m happy with what we got and we’ll take our chances.” – Pearl River head coach Tim Peabody.
Class B final: Irvington vs. Albertus Magnus
Key Players: Irvington — Zoe Maxwell, Rachel Weg, Jessica Geller, Natalie Aronson, Grace Schelp, Sarina Stein. Albertus Magnus — Hope Kehoe, Carly Clinton, Mazie Stiles, Amanda Silvestri, Madison Mari, Kaitlyn Kreider
Outlook: Albertus Magnus has been in this spot before, and it will be a change from years past. Instead of Bronxville (who the Falcons beat in the semifinals), it will be Irvington fighting for the title.
Irvington, who are coached by former boys soccer coach Pat DiBenedetto, have been one of Section 1’s best stories. The program has come out of nowhere and are currently undefeated. While I was not too high on them early on because of a weak schedule, they proved themselves by getting wins against tough opponents, such as Nanuet and Briarcliff, the latter they beat in a resounding 4-0 semifinal win. The key offensive player is Zoe Maxwell, who has emerged as one of the area’s best talents, and she has plenty of support in Rachel Weg and Jessica Geller. Defensively, the backline, led by Natalie Aronson and Grace Schelp, has given up few goals this year.
Albertus Magnus is a team loaded with experience, with a total of seven seniors and 10 juniors. The Falcons are solid all over, but it all starts with Carly Clinton, a midfielder who started the year as the team’s second forward alongside top goal-scorer Hope Kehoe. Albertus Magnus has several players who can score aside from Kehoe, including Danielle LaRochelle, Jenna Vogelsang and Victoria McNamara, and have an excellent backline led by versatile right-back Amanda Silvestri.
I expect this to be a very close game, but I think the very tough schedule that Albertus Magnus played this year (Pearl River twice, Bronxville, Tappan Zee twice, Briarcliff, Pleasantville) has readied the Falcons for a game such as this.
Prediction: Albertus Magnus 2, Irvington 1 (OT)
Quotable: “On Irvington, obviously, 18-0 stands out to you; I’ve heard a lot about Zoe Maxwell and Rachel Weg; they are excellent on the ball and people to weary of. Defensively, all year long, we’ve been solid. Our fourth defenders are going to have their hands full to keep those players in front of us. We really have to possess the ball better than we did (against Bronxville). If we can change the point of attack a lot more and find our passes to our strikers, we’re going to be in good shape.” – Albertus Magnus head coach Tim Gavan.
“I think we have to come out the way have all season, to never give up, to play hard and play together. We had a focused practice (today) as usual, we’re sharp and ready to go to tomorrow. They are really pumped up; we earned our wins this year and I’m really proud of the way they are playing and hoping they can continue to keep doing the same.” – Irvington head coach Pat DiBenedetto.