Jericho boys soccer achieved goal: A second straight state title

Jericho's Zachary Cohen celebrates following his team's victory.

Jericho's Zachary Cohen celebrates following his team's victory. (Nov. 18, 2012) Photo Credit: Adrian Kraus

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In early August, the Jericho boys soccer team came together for their first meeting of the season. The Jayhawks came up with a list of goals, with one standing out above the rest -- win another state championship.

For Jericho, it would have been nice to go undefeated or not allow a goal during the season. But after the Jayhawks won their second straight Class A state title on Nov. 18 by beating Port Chester 2-1, their dream of August had been fulfilled.

"I don't think any of us would've been satisfied with anything short of this," junior midfielder Michael Blumberg said. "We knew the only way we'd be happy in the end was winning the state championship. From the beginning of the season we knew we'd be the best team out here."

"Realistically, our goals were to go undefeated and not let in a goal all year," senior forward Derek Medolla said. "We didn't do that, but we came close. We only had one loss all year and we won the state so I'm very proud of our season. We did an incredible job."

Jericho's season was nothing short of remarkable. The Jayhawks finished with a 20-1-1 record while allowing just eight goals. At one point, they put together a 10-game winning streak while not allowing opponents to find the back of the net.

Jericho's playoff run saw contributions across the board. Medolla and senior Zach Cohen both recorded seven goals in the postseason. Freshman Barry Sharifi scored the game-winning goal in overtime in the county championship. Senior Ajani Motta scored the winning goal in the state final. The defense of Jack Roberts, David Orr, Brian Lowenstein, Harrison Rieber and goalie Ari Lewis put together three shutouts in the Long Island playoff run.

Second-year coach Dani Braga has coached most of the players at the club level since they were in the second grade. Braga said he fully expected his team to develop into a champion in two years' time, but to already be a two-time champion is not something he predicted.

"It's actually funny because when I was first hired last year, I promised the athletic director a state championship this year," he said. "Last year was the surprise; this year I didn't have a doubt."

Braga has instilled a winning tradition he hopes his team will be able to continue for years to come. It won't be easy though, as 15 seniors will graduate this year, including all five captains. Still, the Jayhawks have confidence that they will be able to three-peat.

"Even though we're losing all these guys who've been amazing throughout the past two seasons, we still have talent in our younger classes," Blumberg said. "When August comes, we'll put in the work and if we do the best we can, I think we can make another run at the title."

For the seniors, this year was a perfect way to end their high school careers.

"Looking back on this 20 years from now will be the greatest feeling," Rieber said. "I'll never forget this; to know that we left on top with back-to-back state championships is amazing."

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