By Bill Landon
With a 5-0 league record, Smithtown West hosted the Centereach girls’ soccer team, and on paper, it looked to be an easy matchup. But the 1-4 Cougars gave the team a run for its money.
In a raucous game that was stopped multiple times for players to receive yellow cards, leading to both fan and coach ejections, the Bulls’ lone goal came with 12 minutes left to play, as Smithtown West escaped with a 1-0 victory.
Although the Bulls spent most of the game on the Cougars half of the field, Centereach’s defense stood its ground and time and time again was able to clear the ball down field.
Play was stopped as the coaches questioned many calls made by the officials. There was a lengthy delay for an injured player with 27 minutes left, and a minute later play stopped as the officials ejected Smithtown West’s head coach Rob Schretzmayer.
With all the play stoppages, neither team could find a rhythm, and the game stretched beyond two hours in length.
On a penalty kick, Centereach senior goalkeeper Annalie Buscarino stood tall in the net, and dove to the right side of the net, deflecting the ball for the save to the astonishment of the Bulls’ kicker.
“They always come out hard and we were definitely expecting a lot, because they’re the No. 1 team in the league right now, but I think we did a really great job at stepping up and I was very happy with my team’s performance,” she said. “Defensively and offensively, we moved the ball and we have to keep up this momentum to bring in some wins this season.”
Smithtown West’s Jillian Meaney’s foot decided the game with 11:21 left to play, when the freshman’s shot found the right corner of the net for the lone goal of the afternoon.
“It was a short corner — we planned it before,” Meaney said. “I had a good angle to shoot and I just shot it.”
Centereach head coach Andrew Nardi said his team studied and prepared to take on the team atop the League III leaderboard.
“Smithtown West — they’re undefeated, but we had a game-plan and we stuck with the game-plan,” he said. “And it helped us. We just got unlucky in that last 12 minutes.”
Centereach senior Lauren Buscarino, Annalie’s twin sister, was under no illusion that her team would have an easy time against Smithtown West.
“We were expecting a hard game, and we had to step up and we did that,” she said. “We kept our spirits up; we played up to their level. We’re both division [III] teams, so it’s easy to fall back a little, but today we played up to them.”
Meaney said she thought her team may have underestimated Centereach.
“I didn’t think they were going to be that strong,” she said. “We came in weak and we should’ve gone in stronger. I’m happy we were able to stay up, and we kept pushing through the game, even after all the crazy stuff that went on.”
Smithtown West assistant coach Steve Ianone said it was difficult for his team to gain any kind of traction during the contest.
“The game was stopped so many times during the course of play … neither team could get into any kind of groove, so we just couldn’t get a flow going,” Ianone said. “I was pleased with everyone’s overall performance on the field today, though, especially with the stop-and-go play.”