Port Jefferson holds off Maple Hill, crowned Class C champs
MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. -- There were times during the regular season when a blowout win wasn't considered good enough for the Port Jefferson boys soccer team. The sophomore and junior-laden squad would win a game by as many as four or five goals only to be told that they hadn't played well enough.
But as the team prepared to walk to an award presentation at Middletown High School yesterday, minutes after winning the school's first Class C state title, coach John Poulianos delivered the final verdict.
"It's very hard when you're 16 or 17 and winning games 5-1 and the coach is all over you for not playing well enough," he said. "So what's 'well enough?' This is well enough."
Vincent Antonelli and Connor Crovello both scored and the Royals' defense held off a late Maple Hill rally for a 2-1 win.
Almost immediately after the postgame handshake, the intoxication of victory still fresh, some players already were looking ahead.
"It's incredible," Antonelli said. "I can't even explain the feeling. And the team consists of a lot of juniors and sophomores, so I'm expecting to get it next year as well."
Antonelli kicked off the scoring for Port Jefferson (19-1-1) with 5:51 left in the first half, corralling a long pass from Kent Ueno and firing in a one-on-one shot from about 12 yards.
"I saw the right back wasn't as fast and I knew I had him by a foot or two," Antonelli said. "And when I saw the midfielder dribbling with the ball, I screamed. And when he gave me that ball -- even before I got it -- I knew it was going in."
Crovello scored 7:09 into the second half off a rebound to give Port Jefferson a 2-0 lead. "There was such a frenzy right after, I don't even really remember it," he said.
The Royals controlled the ball for much of the next 25 minutes, but with its season ticking away, a desperate Maple Hill (21-2) attempted a comeback. Paul Ancin scored with 6:18 to go to cut Port Jefferson's lead to one, and the Wildcats nearly tied the score with 30 seconds remaining. But the Royals exhaled as Andrew Bourdeau's shot sailed high and wide right.
His team wrapped up in post-victory proclamations and general jubilation, Poulianos tried to put the historic win in context.
"You don't know if you're going to be back," he said. "You have to treat this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And we talked about that last night and we talked about it at halftime. And now we're done talking about it."