Story by Jon Dinan
Last Saturday, the Livingston Manor girls’ soccer team bussed more than 150 miles to Dowling College in Long Island to face Smithtown Christian in the state Class D regional semifinal.
Then the two games scheduled prior to Manor’s were delayed due to an accident on the Long Island Expressway. That meant the team had to wait even longer. From the time they left Sullivan County until their game began was well over eight hours.
To make matters worse they only had five minutes to practice on the game field.
“In soccer it’s a definite advantage to get used to the field you’re going to play on,” said Manor coach Shirlee Davis. “We only had about five minutes to feel out the game field, and it was slightly different than the one we warmed up on.”
Smithtown had their own issues. Due to Hurricane Sandy, they had not gone to school in eight days and their practice field was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy.
Amazingly, both teams came out ready to play and the game was tight throughout. In the 60th minute of the second half, Smithtown’s leading scorer, midfielder Rebecca Giancana, scored what would end up being the winning goal. After receiving a pass in the box off the foot of Kristina Reuter, Giancana capitalized, driving the ball past Manor goalkeeper Ami Calo and breaking a 1-1 tie.
Smithtown Christian would hold on for the victory, one sweetened by all the adversity they overcame and also by the fact that Smithtown lost in this semifinal round to Coleman last season.
For Davis and Manor, it was the third time they have lost to Smithtown in the regional semifinals since 2007.
“This was a perfect opportunity for us to get over the hump, said Davis. “This Smithtown team wasn’t as strong as the other Smithtown teams we’ve faced in this past. I truly believe that we were the stronger team in this match. But sometimes it just doesn’t go your way, so it’s disappointing.”
Manor seemed to quell any nerves and antsiness from the long journey to Dowling when Jamie Sedlack scored 15 minutes into the first half to put the Lady Wildcats up 1-0. Unfortunately, it would be the only shot Sedlack and her teammates could get past Smithtown goalie Hannah Steffens, who recorded 16 saves for the game.
“It (the goal) gave the girls a much needed confidence boost and helped to overcome some early jitters,” said Manor coach Shirlee Davis. “My goal at halftime was to increase our offensive chances by adding a striker to the line.”
That plan proved ineffective as Gennifer Vandeventer scored the tying goal on a penalty kick resulting from a handball in the box just five minutes into the second half.
“At no time did we stop playing with intensity,” said Davis. “We stayed with them until late in the second half outshooting them 16-10, but could not find the back of the net.”
With 10 seniors on this team, Davis had hoped to finally get through regional play in her final year as coach. “This season was the best gift my team could’ve given me,” said Davis, who has indicated that she is retiring. “They went above and beyond my expectations. They were fantastic all season and they played with a lot of pride.”
Smithtown Christian went on to defeat Loudonville Christian 3-1 in the Class D Regional final, earning a return trip to the state Final Four, where they lost in the finals in 2010. Smithtown (9-4-1) will face Chateaugay Saturday at Tompkins CC in Cortland in the semifinals.