DIX HILLS, New York, October 16
BY: Andrew Wroblewski
The goalposts: friend to some, foe to others.
On Oct. 9 against Northport (10-0), to the ladies of the Half Hollow Hills High School East’s soccer team, the goalposts may have surpassed the term “foe;” they might now be an arch-nemesis.
With less than 6:00 remaining in the game, the Thunderbirds hit a post, the crossbar and just narrowly missed another post; Hills East (6-4) fell to Northport 1-0.
“We were right there a couple of times at the end… Just a hard-fought game all around,” Thunderbirds’ Head Coach Matt Mayo said. “I thought [we] did a really great job… I’m proud of my team.”
For Mayo, contending with Northport – what he called “one of the best teams on Long Island” – was a victory in and of itself.
“We’ve been working towards this for a few years, to be able to hang with teams like this, to beat teams like this – and we put ourselves in a position to do that today,” Mayo said.
As of Oct. 9, the Tigers had yet to give up a goal this season, but it looked like the Thunderbirds had their minds set on changing that.
Forward Christina Bellero – Hills East’s leading scorer (11) – broke through into Northport territory twice to find herself and the back of the net separated by just Tigers’ goalkeeper Emma Havrilla.
The senior’s first effort was a shot that rolled to the far left post and collided to let out an audible “thunk” that not only rocked the woodwork, but also the hearts of Hills East supporters who let out groans that were, perhaps, just as loud, and absolutely just as heartbreaking. The second shot looked like it had a chance to sneak beneath the crossbar, but Havrilla batted the ball up just enough to have it bounce back out into the box where it was ultimately cleared.
“You never feel good about losing,” Mayo said, “but this is the kind of loss that you take something positive away from it.”
Junior goalkeeper Mackenzie Kagan recorded 12 saves for the Thunderbirds in the game – tied for her second-highest total in a game this season.
Despite the loss, the Thunderbirds still look primed for a playoff push.
With four games remaining as of press time Monday, Hills East needs just one win to clinch a playoff spot – something the team hasn’t done in its last two seasons.
“For us, [making the playoffs] is a huge step for the program… They’ve come a long way,” Mayo said. “This whole year has been a big step forward.”
On Wednesday, the girls traveled to Walt Whitman (1-7-3) – a team the Thunderbirds have already defeated once this season, 5-0. On Friday, Hills East makes a trip to Smithtown East (7-2-1) with kickoff scheduled for 4 p.m. The Thunderbirds’ final home game of the regular season is scheduled for Monday at 4 p.m. against Central Islip (0-10-1). League II play comes to a close with a trip to Connetquot (3-6-2) at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
Originally published: Long Islander News: Half Hollow Hills
(Thursday, October 16, 2014; A26)