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Annalie Buscarino

Centereach's Annalie Buscarino makes a diving save off a penalty kick. Photo by Bill Landon

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.

entereach’s Emily Tirado and Smithtown West’s Jillian Meaney leap up to head the ball. Photo by Bill Landon
Centereach’s Emily Tirado and Smithtown West’s Jillian Meaney leap up to head the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

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's Sarah Harrington and battles Centereach’s Jessica Desena for the ball. Photo by Bill Landon
Smithtown West’s Sarah Harrington battles Centereach’s Jessica Desena for the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

“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.”

Centereach goalkeeper Annalie Buscarino leaps up to make the save. Photo by Desirée Keegan

One goal was all the Centereach girls’ soccer team needed to seal the deal Tuesday as the Cougars snapped their five-game losing streak with a 1-0 nonleague win over Miller Place.

“We possessed pretty well,” said sophomore sweeper Amanda Fabris, who made many stops for Centereach and pushed the ball back into Miller Place’s zone. “I think we stayed together well as a pack and filled in the gaps when we needed to.”

After some back-and-forth action and some saved shots by Miller Place senior goalkeeper and co-captain Danielle Bambola, Centereach senior forward Ryan Schubert was able to sneak one by her off a penalty kick that just crossed the line into the front left corner of the net.

Miller Place's Olivia Angelo heads the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Miller Place’s Olivia Angelo heads the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Momentum shifted the Cougars’ way after the goal, leading to more opportunities, but the team couldn’t capitalize, resulting in a 1-0 score after the first 40 minutes.

“In the first half, I obviously didn’t have as clean of a save as I should have, and it hurt us, but in the second half I wasn’t afraid of the adrenaline coming in,” Bambola said. “The first half we could’ve picked it up a little more, but in the second half we came out hard-working and determined. We might have lost, but it was a close game and we worked really hard.”

Both teams pressed the defense and had multiple shots on goal, but it was a goalkeeper battle between Bambola and junior co-captain Annalie Buscarino, who made diving and jumping saves to keep the score unchanged.

Miller Place's Abbey Curcio races Centereach's Karly Sauve for the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Miller Place’s Abbey Curcio races Centereach’s Karly Sauve for the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I think we can finish a little bit better, but I we got a lot of good shots off,” Miller Place freshman forward Abbey Curcio said. “We just get unlucky sometimes. Eventually we’ll put them in the back of the net.”

As time ticked off the clock, the Panthers team grew stronger and hungrier, connecting passes and shooting on net, but was unable to get the equalizer.

“I thought, in the second half, we played extremely well and it gave us a lot of things to build on going forward,” Miller Place head coach Tom Veryzer said. “I think we’ve shown improvement every single day because of how hard this group has worked. Going forward, we would like to finish more of our opportunities, but we know that will come if we keep at it and keep a positive attitude.”