The results of what’s known in Islip as “The Kerri McDonald Experiment” are officially in.
Last season, McDonald became just the second eighth-grader ever to be called up to Islip's varsity team by 11th-year coach Mike Reilly. The experimentation was originally expected to last just two or three games. That hypothesis proved to be incorrect.
She’s stuck around for two years…and two county championships.
The freshman forward knocked in the winning goal off a scramble in front of the net with 9:15 remaining to lift No. 3 Islip to a 2-1 win over top-seeded Sayville in the Class A girls soccer Suffolk county championship yesterday at Dowling Sports Complex.
“The goalie came out, it was us and the defenders, the ball came to my foot and I just kicked it,” McDonald said. “At first, I didn’t think it was real life. I’m just so happy I could be a part of this.”
The freshman forward may be one of the youngest players on the team – one of four freshman – and one of the smallest – hasn’t yet reached five feet – but, yesterday she showed why her experiment has been prolonged.
“She sees the field as good as anyone,” Reilly said. “Her size does not show her character out on that field whatsoever.”
For the second straight season, Islip showed how misleading playoff seeding can be. After capturing the county title last season as a five seed, the Buccaneers went through the top two seeds this season to bring home their seventh championship in ten years.
Morgan Santoro centered a short pass to freshman Mary O’Hara, who fired inside the near post to tie the score at 1 just 1:50 into the second half.
Emily Sellitti opened the scoring on a header off a corner kick to the far post by Sam Bishop to put Sayville (15-2-1) ahead 1-0 in the sixth minute of the game.
Sayville, which was unbeaten in league play and entered the game averaging more than four goals a game, was held to one goal for just the second time all season.
“They have a lot of great athletes,” said Islip defender Amanda Buck, who helped mark Madison Hoon, Long Island’s leading goal scorer. “We had to stick together and defend as a team.”
Tara Mackey made nine saves for Islip (13-4-1), which advances to play the winner of South Side and Garden City in the Long Island championship at 5 p.m. tomorrow at Dowling. With a win there, the Buccaneers will inch closer to the prize they covet most, a state championship.
“This never gets old,” Reilly said. “But going into this season, this was not our goal, this was just another game. Our goal is three games from now.”