Rye Rolls Through First Two Rounds of Section Playoffs

Just as they did to opponents in the regular season, the undefeated Rye girls’ soccer team browbeat the competition in the first two rounds of the Class A Section tournament.

On the strength of two goals from senior captain Lia Bellizzi, the top-seeded Garnets dispatched No. 16 Ardsley 4-1 at home October 29. Rye’s All-American striker was at it again November 1 in the quarterfinals against ninth-seeded Nyack. Bellizzi recorded a hat trick in the 3-0 victory.

“The game was great,” said Bellizzi. “We really played as a team and worked together to get the win. The semifinal against Byram Hills is going to be tough, but no matter what, our team sticks together and makes it through. I’m hoping for the best.”

Despite the lopsided final tally, Rye’s quarterfinal win over Nyack was a legitimate challenge early on. Tatiana Saunders, a Garnet senior captain and All-American, jump-started the action by breaking up a scoring opportunity in the first few minutes. The play energized Rye, as well as Saunders, who finished the game with eight saves and an assist on Rye’s second goal with a perfect strike from midfield.

“Nyack came out really strong and it caught us off guard,” said Saunders. “But as the game went on we gained momentum, and began to move the ball around on the ground. It was a great win, though we can no longer come out flat with the competition coming up. We have to remember that every team wants to beat us.”

Nyack entered the tilt with a tremendous amount of fight, putting great pressure on Rye’s defense, but Saunders’ aforementioned save altered the momentum and the Garnets played composed from that point on. Bellizzi’s first goal, midway through the first half, came on a perfect through ball by senior captain Carter Talgo. The goal fired up Rye and they dominated after that. Bellizzi scored her second goal towards the end of the first half, giving her team the edge at intermission.

As always, Talgo was strong in the midfield, and senior midfielder Kaelyn Lucas, who scored against Ardsley, offered some excellent runs up front and created a tremendous number of scoring opportunities.

Bellizzi completed the hat trick early in the second half on an assist from junior midfielder Lindsey Welhoelter, who delivered an impeccable pass on a give-and-go play.

“We came out a little slower than usual – it could have been dangerous, considering Nyack is a fast team,” said Talgo. “We picked it up after a few minutes, and our defense played their normal roles in clearing every ball that passed the halfway line. Bellizzi had a great game as well, and it’s not every day our goalie has an assist.”

Many players strengthened Rye’s backbone in the game, including senior captain and Con Edison Athlete of the Week Catharine Greer, senior captain Maddie Chabot, fellow senior Stephanie Alimena, junior Victoria Pacos, and sophomore Brigid Lonegran. Lindsey Clark did an excellent job as well, filling in as the last defender for Kelly McRedmond. Seniors Nat Moore and Catherine Woodruff, junior Kirstin Colwell, and sophomore Alexa DiCostanza also contributed. Finally, as always, the tremendous throw-ins of senior Amanda Benincasa shifted the team from defense to dangerous, allowing them to attack up top.

The Garnets defeated fifth-seeded Byram Hills 2-0 in the semifinals at this newspaper’s deadline. Rye will face No. 2 Somers November 7 at Yorktown High School. The Class A Section championship is currently scheduled to begin at noon.

— Melanie Cane


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