The tears flowed down Lexi Dean’s face. The high school senior couldn’t believe it.
Mohonasen, whose girls’ soccer program had never even played in an area title game until a year ago, had just advanced into the state playoffs.
“This is a dream come true,” Dean said. “We’ve worked toward this for so long.”
Mohonasen and Averill Park were crowned co-champions following a 0-0 tie in Friday’s Section II Class A title game, but Mohonasen advanced into the state playoffs after outlasting Averill Park 5-4 in the first round of penalty kicks. Before those PKs, the teams played a tension-filled 110 minutes of scoreless soccer as Mohonasen clinched a share of its first-ever sectional title.
“This is amazing. It’s just amazing,” Mohonasen junior Lexi Canavally said. “I’m speechless because this is so amazing.”
Early on, Averill Park (11-5-3, No. 2) was stronger. After the opening 20 minutes, though, Mohonasen (7-10-2, No. 4) started to generate scoring chances of its own, as the game shifted into one in which momentum went back and forth quickly between the teams.
“It’s been like that for us all season. It takes us a while to get into the game,” said fifth-year head coach Vito Urbano, whose Mohonasen squad had lost 2-0 to Averill Park during the regular season. “But usually if we can make it through those first five or 10 minutes without allowing a goal or making a big mistake, we can recover.”
Mohonasen junior goalie Milan Pfister made four of her nine saves in the game’s first dozen minutes. Urbano said Pfister played the best game of her season Friday night, while the keeper said her team took confidence from weathering Averill Park’s strong start.
“It was a lot of pressure, but we play well under pressure,” Pfister said. “If we could push through that, we knew we could do it.”
Canavally applied offensive pressure throughout the contest for Mohonasen, but Averill Park sophomore goalie Megan Glanton made all eight saves she needed within regulation and the game’s four overtimes.
After a deeper Averill Park squad controlled the final minutes of regulation, Mohonasen generated five shots on goal in overtime compared to Averill Park’s three. The way Mohonasen played in the game’s 30 minutes of overtime left Urbano confident as the match moved into PKs.
“But they’re kids, man,” Urbano said. “You never know what to expect.”
Urbano selected Canavally to go first during PKs for his team — “I knew she’d definitely make it, and we needed to start off with a goal,” he said — but each of the teams’ first four shooters connected. Senior Sam Schmidt had been picked to shoot last in the opening best-of-5 series of PKs for Mohonasen.
“I was nervous,” she said. “But we practice those every day in practice, so I felt confident enough to take the last one.”
That’s how Urbano had felt, too. He said he needed a senior for that final spot.
“We needed someone who’d been here before,” said Urbano, who slotted senior Lexi Coelho, Dean and junior Kayla Kidd in between Canavally and Schmidt. “I had faith that in the big moment [Schmidt] would take charge for us.”
Schmidt calmly knocked in her shot. That left it up to Averill Park junior Sally Holden to send the match into sudden-death PKs, but her shot went wide of the net to start Mohonasen’s celebration.
“I don’t know if any of us [at first] totally knew what happened,” Dean said. “We were just shocked.”
Mohonasen, which upset top-seeded Scotia-Glenville in the semifinals, will next play Tuesday against a Section III opponent in a sub-regional matchup at Fulton High School.
“We wanted this — and we deserved it,” Pfister said. “We’ve worked so hard for this.”