It’s hard enough being the 16th seed and facing the No. 1 team on the road in the first round of the Class A Section playoffs. It’s cruel when that top seed – the Rye girls’ soccer team – is also the reigning State champions and the No. 2 team in the nation. And when that same Garnet squad is unbeaten in 22 games, in which they’ve outscored the opposition 52-6? Well, that’s just plain unfair.
This is what Sleepy Hollow was up against October 31 at Nugent Stadium. To combat the high-octane Garnets, the Horsemen attempted to play counter-attack soccer by dropping most of their team back into the penalty box. Although Rye had opportunities to score early, Sleepy Hollow’s tactic succeeded in preventing them from getting on the board for the first 48 minutes of the game. It was only effective for so long however, as the deluge came once Rye cracked the dam in a 4-0 victory.
“It was difficult to score as Sleepy Hollow played a very defensive game with their whole team in the 18-yard box at times,” said goalkeeper Tatiana Saunders, who needed to make just two saves. “We came out very strong in the second half though, and played some awesome soccer.”
Lia Bellizzi and Carter Talgo executed a beautiful corner kick play eight minutes into the second stanza to give Rye (16-0-2) its first lead of the game. Bellizzi executed a brilliant dummy play by dragging two defenders with her and letting the ball go through her legs. That allowed Talgo to score on a perfectly positioned ball. Each player finished with a pair of goals and one assist. Maddy Chabot and Catharine Greer also recorded assists.
Head coach Rich Savage said the goal was a huge relief and that once the ball found the back of the net, the Garnets got their confidence back. They created more scoring opportunities by attacking from the outside.
Rye advanced to the quarterfinals with the win, facing No. 8 Tappan Zee at home November 3. The Garnets had to erase a 2-0 halftime deficit to overcome the Dutchies 5-2 in overtime. They are now undefeated in 24 games dating back to last season, and will play fifth-seeded Byram Hills at home November 5 in the Section semifinals.
– Melanie Cane