Chris Milani ran into every one of his players in the Cardozo hallways Monday and each had a shared goal for the first round PSAL Championship Division playoff game – send the seniors out with a win in their final home game.
That didn’t happen in the regular-season finale a week ago, but the Judges bounced back in a big way, beating Columbus, 13-4, in Oakdale Gardens.
“We redeemed ourselves today,” star middie Bektosh Ayoob said. “I’m very proud of how we played.”
Ayoob was one of the leading scorers in the PSAL during the regular season with 36 goals and 20 assists. And while he finished with three second-half goals, an assist and six groundballs Monday, he wasn’t the only hero offensively for the third-seeded Judges.
Kevin Chen had four goals and two assists, Justin Dong had three goals and Jensan Liu had three goals, one assist and six groundballs.
“We played more of a team game,” Ayoob said. “We moved the ball around smartly. In practice we’ve been going hard. You have to want it inside to win and every groundball has to be a fight and we have to play as hard as we can.”
No one was better in that department than Brian Higgins, who had eight groundballs, several coming off his faceoff domination.
Cardozo (9-4), ranked No. 10 in New York City by MSG Varsity, led 4-1 after one quarter and 5-1 at the half. The Judges, who controlled the game from the opening faceoff, put it away in the fourth quarter with four consecutive goals.
It was Liu’s breakout performance that had Milani especially excited. The junior middie helped fuel an offensive explosion for a Cardozo team that scored more goals Monday than it did in the previous three regular season games combined.
“He’s been the sleeper,” he said. “He’s been having great shots, but it just hasn’t gone in for him. He’s either hit the post or the goalie has been making acrobatic saves. Today, the ball bounces his way, which is a huge confidence boost going forward in the playoffs. It’s much needed for us because he’s another threat offensively.”
While Liu had one of his best games of the year, Christopher Yeh was his consistent brilliant self in net. The senior made 21 saves and held the opposition to less than five goals for a third straight game.
“He’s on point,” Milani said of Yeh. “He knows this is his senior year. He gives this team everything he’s got and he loves it more than anything.”
That’s why the Judges named Yeh a co-captain, joining Ayoob and Higgins, midway through the season.
That has been his turning point, according to Milani.
“Since he’s taken on that responsibility, he’s put the team on his shoulders and he’s starting to shine,” Milani said. “He truly is the backbone.”
Emin Sabovic had three goals and seven groundballs, Brandon Velez had one goal and Jonathan Laureano made 12 saves for Columbus (2-11), which was seeded sixth. While the Sharks season ends, Cardozo heads to Staten Island to face a New Dorp team that has beaten it twice – 12-1 on April 16 and 4-3 last Monday.
It was that second loss that ruined Senior Day No. 1 for Cardozo. The Judges seniors felt much better leaving the field Monday, but a first-round playoff win isn’t the ultimate goal.
“It feels good going out here [with a win], but we don’t want to end it yet,” Yeh said. “I want to keep going forward to that championship and get something our team hasn’t gotten in a long time.”
Contact Dylan Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org
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