When seventh-seeded Hicksville scored less than five minutes into Friday's Nassau Class AA quarterfinal game, things began to look bleak for second-seeded Massapequa. But coach Keith Stanley had a message for his team: stay poised.
"I felt like we were beginning to panic," he said. "It was way too early to start panicking. I had a feeling we would be able to even it up."
The Chiefs (13-1-1) did that and more, earning a 2-1 victory over the defending Class AA state champions to move on to the semifinals.
Massapequa got the winning goal in the 52nd minute when Tyler Keogh headed the ball to Scott Pemberton, who headed it into the goal.
Dan Sloan scored 4:48 into the game and the Comets (12-2-3) looked to be in control early on. But the Chiefs didn't quit, and forced a huge shift in momentum when junior Kevin Mazol tied the game with 8 seconds left in the first half off a throw-in from Tyler Dowd.
"I think it brought their confidence down a lot," Mazol said. "Going into the second half, I felt like we were going to win this."
Said Hicksville coach Scott Starkey: "I think it was definitely deflating. But I thought we still played well for long stretches of the second half to have a chance to win."
Massapequa came out of halftime with more energy, especially on defense. The Chiefs stifled senior Kyle Poetzsch, who led the county with 22 goals this year.
"Whenever he touched the ball, we would go right at him," Mazol said. "We had at least two guys on him the whole time."
Along with Mazol, Chris McGrath, John Romano and Brian Flecker stopped any breakaway attempts and gained back possession for Massapequa.
"They have a great defense," Starkey said. "I think their back four is the best we've seen all year."
Junior goalie Dan Vitiello finished with five saves.
Massapequa will face the winner of No. 3 MacArthur and No. 6 Plainview JFK in the semifinals Saturday at 3 p.m. at Cold Spring Harbor High School.
The winner of that game will play for the county championship Monday at Adelphi at 3 p.m.