Michael Blumberg and the rest of the Jericho boys soccer team knew it wasn't going to be easy to three-peat as they entered Sunday's Long Island Class A championship game.
The Jayhawks' season started with some injuries and a few losses, and by midseason, Blumberg wasn't sure if they were even going to make the playoffs.
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"We started complacent and extremely confident,'' said Blumberg, whom coach Dani Braga called the ''engine'' that makes the Jayhawks go. "As we saw, this was no easy ride.''
Blumberg and fellow senior midfielder David Greenbaum made the ride all the more enjoyable when they scored 1:23 apart in the first half to lead Jericho to a 2-1 victory over Sayville at Mitchel Athletic Complex.
"It was a long journey that enabled us to keep fighting,'' said Blumberg, who scored on a penalty kick in the 27th minute to make it 1-0. "Coach helped us snap out of it and we continued to keep our fitness up.''
Jericho (13-4-3), winner of six games in a row, continued to pressure Sayville (17-2-1) right after Blumberg scored. A pretty tic-tac-toe play started by Greenbaum, who fed Andrew Greenblatt deep inside Golden Flashes territory, eventually found the foot of Drew Shuman, who put a solid shot at the right post. Greenbaum cleaned it up for the eventual winning goal with 12:06 left in the first half.
"It was just the epitome of a team play,'' Greenbaum said. "In all aspects of the game, that was perfect. It was complete cohesiveness and teamwork.''
Cory Santangelo made things interesting when he scored on a penalty kick in the 42nd minute. He finished with a team-leading 14 goals and 17 assists.
Jericho senior goalkeeper Reed Ginsburg had seven saves to Alex Spaun's five for Sayville.
The Jayhawks will continue their quest for a third consecutive state title when they face Goshen Central (Section IX) Saturday at 4:15 p.m. in Middletown.
"Honestly, I expected this,'' said Braga, who started coaching the current 20 Jayhawks seniors in youth leagues when each was in second grade. "There was a point this season where I walked off the field after a loss and didn't speak to the kids because the effort and the intensity weren't there. We weren't fighting for a three-peat.''
It all came together in the Long Island championship.