Heartbreak, shock, and disappointment were all emotions felt by the Rye girls’ soccer team in the wake of their 2-1, double overtime loss to Garden City in the Class A State championship game November 20 at SUNY Cortland. But, more than anything, it was the sense of finality that pervaded the Garnets, and especially the 14 seniors.
“Beyond the win and loss column, we came together as a team,” said head coach Rich Savage. “Each player supported one another both on and off the field. The girls are more upset the season is over and that they won’t get to play together again.”
Rye appeared bound for their second State title in three years when Maddy Chabot put her team on the board four minutes into the tilt. The senior co-captain launched a dazzling corner kick from the left that swiveled its way into the net. The Garnets’ exuberance was quickly deflated a dozen minutes later, however, when Garden City’s Barbara Sullivan blasted a shot some 15 yards out that found its way into the lower right hand corner of the net.
The Garnets attacked time and again, pushing the Trojan defenders’ backs to the wall, but were simply off target. Nevertheless, the work of all the players was tremendous. Kaelyn Lucas and Chabot put constant pressure on from the outside of the midfield. Senior captain Lia Bellizzi was – to no one’s surprise – marked very tightly, but still created scoring opportunities for many of her teammates, including Alexa DiConstanza, Kirstin Colwell and Lindsey Welhoelter. Catharine Greer was once again flawless at shutting down the opposition’s top goal scorer.
Rye looked like they would pull out a stunning victory at the end of regulation, but could not convert on three separate scoring opportunities in the final two minutes, one a tremendous Amanda Benincasa throw-in. The game then headed to extra time with the score still knotted at 1-1.
As the first 10-minute overtime ended and the teams entered OT period number two, it became darker and even colder. With the clock winding down, a pair of five-minute sudden-death periods loomed, with the prospect of a shared championship beyond that.
It wasn’t to be. With less than 90 seconds to go in the second overtime, the Trojans’ Erin Greiner ripped off a shot in a scramble in front of the net. The goal counted, and the Garnets crumpled to the ground 86 seconds later as the final whistle sounded.
While hopes of a second State championship evaporated, the memories of an awe-inspiring season – filled with a No. 1 national ranking, 22 straight wins, and everlasting friendship – will not fade.
“Going to States was just another incredible milestone this team achieved,” said Benincasa. “We were able to stay together, as a team, as long as possible. Despite the outcome of the game, we can’t be disappointed in all of our accomplishments this season.”
Savage, who praised the parents and community for their support, had the final say about the dedication of his team. “I am proud of each of the players on our team. We are a true family and what the girls have accomplished is amazing. In the last 51 games these girls have posted a record of 47-1-3. Needless to say, they were a dominant team. We’re looking forward to next season as well. Although these seniors can never be replaced, they have set the standards for Rye Soccer. All those watching this year are anxious to keep the winning tradition alive.”
– Melanie Cane