Greeley meets its match in AA regional semis
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Greeley's shocking run to the Section 1 Class AA title was built on stingy defense.
In Tuesday's NYS Class AA regional semifinal at Middletown's Faller Field, Section 9 champ Newburgh Free Academy beat the Quakers were beat at their own game.
The Goldbacks (15-4-1) rode their lockdown defense to a 1-0 win over Greeley (10-8-1), leaning on the play of standout goalie Mike Demshick. The senior keeper made a handful of his seven saves inside the final three minutes of tense action to seal it.
Newburgh will play Section 4's Vestal (17-0) in the regional finals on Saturday at the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta, NY at a time to be announced.
“I thought (Demshick) was a spectacular goalie,” said Greeley star striker Jeremy Kesselhaut, who was limited after scoring a pair of goals in the Quakers' sectional final win over John Jay-EF.
Newburgh right back Noel Alexander wasn't the least bit surprised with Demshick's performance.
“Mike's a lifesaver for us,” Noel said. “It was good seeing him make a couple saves to keep us in the game.”
Noel, meanwhile, provided the offense, scoring the game's lone goal on a header off a corner kick from Christian Cuervo with 24:09 left in the second half.
It was just Noel's second goal of the season. As a defensive stalwart, he took advantage of the set piece and moved forward into the box to utilize his height. Noel made a darting near post run and flicked Cuervo's line drive cross past Greeley keeper Harris Pollack (seven saves).
“We talked about it at halftime that we had to execute a near post corner,” Noel said. “I knew the ball was coming and Christian played a great ball, so I just knew I had to get a head on it and redirect it into the goal.”
Finishing was a problem for Greeley, which dominated the run of play for much of the first half.
“We just didn't put it in — that's the bottom line,” Quakers coach Adam Borman said. “Other than that, we played a great game. I think we outplayed them, but we just didn't put it in.”
Greeley had a slew of opportunities inside the final three minutes of regulation, peppering Demshick with headers, volleys and even breakaway shots. Kesselhaut, who used his rangy speed to burn John Jay-EF in the sectional finals, finally broke free and got behind NFA's defense in the 77th minute. But Demshick was there to cut off the angle and diffuse the prime opportunity.
“(Demshick) knew when to come out and when to stay in,” Kesselhaut said.
The late-game surge was expected from the fearless Quakers, who won the Section 1 title as a 13-seed.
“We are never going to give up,” Borman said. “We fought down to the last second. We had more opportunities in the last three to four minutes than we did the whole game. We take pride in how hard we play all 80 minutes.”
Newburgh — which was on its heels for much of the first half — wasn't quite as consistent through all 80 minutes, but they came out with purpose in the second half. The Goldbacks stopped trying to play so direct and used Faller Field's massive dimensions to maintain possession and systematically work the ball around the bigger, more physical Quakers. Basically, they stopped trying to force the ball down the center of the field, using the flanks spread Greeley out.
“We settled down in the second half and started moving the ball,” Noel said. “It was good to get into a groove and press forward.”
Borman sensed Newburgh was starting to figure it out as the second half got underway.
“I feel like (Newburgh) just finally clicked and put some passes together,” he said. “We were applying some pressure and maybe that fatigued us a little bit, but they got it up the field and maybe we didn't get back enough. But they scored on a set piece. Our defense held strong.”
Still, it was a costly lapse for Greeley's defense, which posted three shutouts and relinquished just one goal during its previous four playoff games.
For Borman, a 25-year old first-year coach who took over for the legendary Bob Oddo, it was a dream-like rookie season on the sidelines.
“It was a lot,” Borman said. “I put in a lot of hard work, but (the players) did everything. I'm just the coach. I just tell them who goes out on the field, but they did the work.”
Despite seeing their season end a little earlier than they would have liked, it clearly paid off for the Quakers.
Check back for photos from this game.
Email Isaac Cass at Icass@cablevision.com | Follow him on Twitter @MSGV_Icass