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Emma Havrilla

Determined and gutsy in goal, Northport’s Emma Havrilla has her sights set on another successful season.

After prohibiting opponents from scoring in 13 matchups last year, the senior goalkeeper secured another shutout — a 1-0 victory in the Tigers girls soccer team’s first game of the season against Ward Melville Sept. 2.

“It felt really good,” Havrilla said of the away win. “Since we were reigning county champs last year this shows we’re ready to come out hard for it again this year.”

Even when the Patriots carried out multiple corner-kick attempts and pressured inside the box to try to avenge an overtime loss in last season’s Suffolk semifinals, Northport head coach Aija Gipp never questioned Havrilla’s abilities or her judgment calls.

“Having Emma back there — we trust her with every decision she makes,” she said.

And there were some close calls to be made. The senior leaped out and grabbed possession after each corner kick the Patriots took, and when Ward Melville sophomore midfielder Kiley Hamou had a breakaway opportunity with 30 minutes left in the game, Havrilla came out and tapped the ball to her right, and dodged to the left to secure possession of the ball on the rebound shot.

“I saw her take a bad touch, that’s when I come off my line,” Havrilla said. “Considering we tied them 0-0 and won in penalty kicks last year, it’s great to win against them this year.”

She too doesn’t have any doubt, as it pertains to her defensive line, despite the crop of younger competitors this year.

“We’ve put in a lot of work and I trust the girls in front of me,” she said. “We’re still just as strong.”

Senior midfielder Emily McNelis sealed the deal for Northport with 8:20 left in the first half, with the help of a penalty. Ward Melville was called for a handball, and Isabel Yeomans stepped up to send the ball into play. McNelis got a touch on the ball and sent it past Ward Melville senior goalkeeper Samantha Tarpey for the 1-0 lead.

“She was where she needed to be,” Gipp said. “Having Emily there, the goal, it was picture perfect.”

McNelis agreed with Havrilla that with Ward Melville being one of the toughest teams the Tigers will face, the win shows Northport is ready to rumble.

“Everyone played with so much heart and such a desire to win — we had great intensity and we kept it going,” McNelis said. “Ward Melville came out for blood today, and this shows that even though we lost a lot of key players last year, we’ve come out even better, and we’re still the top team to beat.”

Northport came close, but couldn’t make redemption happen, as the girls’ soccer team fell, again, 3-2, to Massapequa in the Class AA Long Island championship matchup Nov. 4.

The Tigers (18-2-1) scored first with an early goal by junior forward Victoria Colatosti with 28:48 remaining in the first half. She followed it up by getting a free kick on a foul 10 yards from the box, and senior defender and co-captain Stephanie Rapp came up to take the kick. Instead of shooting, Rapp passed outside, and Massapequa (16-1-2) cleared the ball to keep the 1-0 score.

The two teams continued to battle at midfield, swapping possession and chances at a goal, and an unlucky deflection by Northport on a corner kick tied the game, 1-1.

Senior goalkeeper Emma Havrilla scooped up the ball twice in a row to keep Massapequa from getting a shot off, and made a save on a Chiefs free kick with 4:44 remaining until the halftime break to keep the Tigers tied.

But with 2:34 remaining, Havrilla leapt straight up to make a save on another Massapequa free kick after a hand ball call, but her tip wasn’t enough to stop a goal, as the Chiefs put the ball in the net on the rebound for a 2-1 halftime lead.

Less than five minutes into the second half, Massapequa’s Hope Breslin found Sierra Brophy on a through ball, and Brophy’s goal put the Chiefs up 3-1.

A long scoring drought ensued as the two teams fought for possession, and with 11:56 left to play, junior forward Juliana Conforti made it a one-goal game when she buried a loose ball.

In front of an estimated 2,000 fans at St. Joseph’s College’s Long Island campus, Northport couldn’t score the equalizer, as Massapequa topped Northport by the same score it did four years ago, and won its fourth straight Long Island championship and sixth in the last eight years.

Emily McNelis breaks down following the shootout win. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Northport was eliminated during the semifinals in penalty kicks last year, so when the No. 1 girls’ soccer team found itself in a similar situation Tuesday, the Tigers fought for redemption.

The victory was sweet, with Northport’s Cybele Laisney, Stephanie Rapp and Caeley Gruhn sending their shots home, and Emma Havrilla making two saves to seal the 3-1 shootout win over Walt Whitman Oct. 24.

Northport teammates surround goalkeeper Emma Havrilla following the win. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Northport teammates surround goalkeeper Emma Havrilla following the win. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I haven’t felt this way in a long time,” the junior goalkeeper said following the win. “Once I got one stop I knew I was going to get another. I felt confident.”

Although Northport, 16-1 overall and 14-0 in League II, was going up against a No. 16 seed in Walt Whitman, it wasn’t as easy for the Tigers as it would sound. Northport faced off against its playoff opponent three times this season, most recently, coming away with a 3-1 win Oct. 18.

“It’s always harder to play a team the second time around, let alone the third time, so we knew what we were in for,” said Rapp, a senior defender. “They have drastically increased their gameplay, which was a challenge, but we worked around it and pulled through.”

Laisney said the increased toughness was expected.

“Once you play a team three times they know who you are, they know how you play and they work on how to break you down,” the senior center midfielder said. “So it gets tough.”

Cybele Laisney moves the ball across midfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Cybele Laisney moves the ball across midfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The two teams battled through two 40-minute halves, two 10-minute overtime session and two five-minute sudden death periods before heading into the shootout. Northport had multiple attempts at goal, the largest coming when junior forward Victoria Colatosti made the goalkeeper come out of the box, and raced between three defenders to the open net, but her last touch went wide amid the swarm of players.

“It’s scary in the first round to have to get to penalty kicks, but there’s a reason this happened,” Northport head coach Aija Gipp said. “And our goalkeeper was just amazing. This gives us confidence and gives her confidence moving forward.”

Walt Whitman scored first in the shootout, but Laisney countered.

“We just went through such emotional turmoil,” the co-captain said, adding that scoring the first goal for her team took a huge weight off her shoulders. “It’s nerve-racking, but you get in the zone and you realize it’s this or it’s nothing, so you chose your side and hit it hard. We just could not see ourselves end here.”

She said it wouldn’t have been made possible without her goalkeeper, who blocked Walt Whitman’s next shot.

“Emma is incredible and we could not have done any of this without her,” Laisney said. “She is such a solid, solid rock in our goal and I’m so happy she’s on our team.”

Emma Havrilla makes her first save in the shootout. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Emma Havrilla makes her first save in the shootout. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Rapp, a co-captain, scored the next penalty kick for the Tigers.

“I took one last year and made it in, so I used that as confidence,” she said. “We have a lot of heart and dedication. We weren’t going to let this be our last game.”

Havrilla made another diving block on Walt Whitman’s next shot, and after junior defender Caeley Gruhn scored another, Walt Whitman’s final attempt hit the crossbar to give Northport the win.

“This team is all about heart,” Gipp said. “The girls have a lot of passion and they never give up. I’m proud of them.”

It came down to the Tigers’ mentality, and Laisney agreed with her coach that her team had too much heart to get upset in the first round.

“We love playing soccer so much,” she said, fighting back tears of joy. “We have so much heart and that’s what keeps us going forward. That’s what allows us to have the composure we have to pull through with the PKs. It’s what allows us not to choke and break down.”