Hope Breslin leads Massapequa into state semifinals

Massapequa's Hope Breslin dribbles the ball during the Massapequa's Hope Breslin dribbles the ball during the Class AA Finals. (Nov. 9, 2013) Photo Credit: Richard T. Slattery

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Maybe Massapequa has struggled to score goals at times this season. But of late, there has been newfound hope.

Hope Breslin, a freshman forward, has scored five goals during the last three playoff games to help Massapequa advance to the girls soccer Class AA state semifinals against Cicero-North Syracuse at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday at Cortland University.

She has been opportunistic in finding the net, knocking in two goals -- including the winner -- during a 3-2 win over unbeaten Northport in the Long Island championship. Breslin is now tied with Taylor Kugler with a team-high seven goals, a somewhat modest total for a contender, which reflects the balanced attack of the Massapequa offense.

But that offensive spark, combined with a solid defense and one of Long Island's best goalkeepers, may be the final ingredient needed to form a state championship team.

Truth is, the Chiefs (16-1-1) don't need to score many goals because they rarely allow any. Over the last eight games, the only goals they've allowed have come on set pieces and restarts. Goalkeeper Katie Hatziyianis simply knows when to stay in net and when to come out. Her ability to anticipate a play has resulted in 12 shutouts this season, including three in the playoffs.

Left-back Kristin Muir has helped solidify the backline, as seen in her performance on Saturday when she held her own while marking the reigning Suffolk player of the year, Northport's Kristin Desmond. Opposite Muir is senior captain Nicole Mahin, a right-back who is a solid one-on-one defender. Central defenders Meghan McCabe and Maggie Shanley and defensive center-mid Olivia Stegner have also been integral to the Chiefs' defensive success.

But that defense can take the Chiefs only so far. They'll need to find the back of the net against a tough Cicero-North Syracuse (17-2-1) defense that has recorded 14 straight shutouts. To do so, they'll depend on multiple weapons, aside from the suddenly surging Breslin. Mackenzie Palmer is always a threat to generate offense out of the backfield. Kristen Bishoff has come on of late after being hampered by injury, tallying a goal and two assists on Saturday. Skylar Vitiello and Amanda Garrity can strike at any time.

Give the Chief defense a one-goal lead to protect and Massapequa could leave Cortland with its first state title since 2010, and fourth in the past 11 years.

"We have a bunch of fighters on this team," Hatziyianis said after winning the Long Island championship. "When the odds are against us, that's when we pull through. That's the nature of this team, we play with heart."

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