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MIDDLETOWN, NY – It was all over in a blazing flash.
On Tuesday, October 23, the number-four ranked Sullivan West Lady Bulldogs faced off against the Lady Blazers of Millbrook in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s (NYSPHSAA) Section IX 2018-19 Class C girls' soccer championship match.
The hotly contested game was played on Faller Field at Middletown High School.
The squads battled it out without quarter for 80 minutes of regulation play with neither team scoring a goal, a 0-0 tie that forced the game into two mandated 10-minute overtime periods.
At the 3:06 mark in the first OT, Millbrook’s Rebecca Quick lived up to her name, as she blasted up the right side of the playing field and beat Sullivan’s West stalwart goalie off a stunning cross by Arianna Radovic to put the Lady Blazers up 1-0.
In the blistering second OT frame, Sullivan West tried valiantly to rally, but as in the preceding 100-minutes of soccer, just couldn’t get the ball into the net despite an inferno of 26 shots (including 16 on goal) compared to Millbrook’s 16 and 9.
As to the Lady Bulldogs' not making it into the opposition’s net, a bit of literary license is in order, as it was reminiscent of the 1937 black-and-white flick “High, Wide and Handsome,” starring Irene Dunne, Randolf Scott and Dorothy Lamour.
Only for the hard-charging Sullivan West booters, it was a case of "high, wide and not-so-handsome."
If even a couple of their shots had made it into the net and past the Lady Blazers star goalie Claire Martel, perhaps the story would have had a different ending.
As it turned out, it was the final act in the Lady Bulldogs' season, and put the kibosh on their hopes of making it to regionals.
But that the tale of high school varsity-level sports—you can’t count your chickens before they hatch, or the ball makes into the net.
Speaking of keepers, Sullivan West’s Isabel Nearing posted 15 saves, while Martel saved the day a total of 26 times.
Nearing had 7 saves in the first half and 8 in the final frame, while Martel had equal numbers of 11 each in the first and second halves, in addition to two each in the overtime periods.
Jerome Canzoneri, coach of the Lady Blazers (8-4-1), said of the Lady Bulldogs, “The Sullivan West girls are big and athletic; they run at you all day.”
“We did a good job of staying nice and tight, organized, and that gave us the opportunity to win.”
As a matter of fact, throughout the match, you could hear Canzoneri yelling to his team from the sidelines…”Focus,,, focus, focus…”
Mike Ellmauer, coach of the Lady Bulldogs (7-7-1) has been in the game since 1983.
“It was a fun year. I wish things had worked out a little differently, but we played a hell of a game," he said wistfully.
“We played hard, just couldn’t get the ball into the net… we had our chances, we didn’t let that bother us, we went out and played ball… this was a roller coaster year for us, and that’s just one of those things.”
Ellmauer’s take on the heartbreaking loss?
“It hurt, but we played well… in the second half, we had them worried a little bit,” he replied.
After the match, the Lady Bulldogs consoled each other and shed a few tears, while at the other end of the field, the Lady Blazers proudly showed off the title plaque.
At about the midpoint in the second frame of regulation play, Sullivan West’s glittering star Samantha Becker almost posted a goal for the Lady Bulldogs, but her smoking-hot attack was checked by Martel in a heart-stopping dive onto the artificial turf.
“In the beginning [of the season] we went through a rough patch… I’m glad we all came together in the end," said Becker.
Not one to mince words, she said of the season and the final game,” We worked our asses off; I’ll never forget this.”