South Side girls soccer keeps state winning tradition

South Side goalkeeper Sarah McCarthy jumps into the South Side goalkeeper Sarah McCarthy jumps into the arms of teammates after winning the Class A championship. (Nov. 13, 2012) Photo Credit: David Pokress

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Christina Klaum gets three Pixy Stix.

Meghan Hines skips to the beat of an '80s pop song.

Michaela Lynch knocks on her head three times.

Alex Reis takes a bite of the pregame mystery dip.

Confused? You should be, unless of course you've played for the South Side Cyclones.

On the bus before every game, each player gets a certain number of Pixy Stix to match the number of years they've been on the team. Rookies get one, second-year players get two and so on. "It's a little boost of energy before each game," Klaum said.

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While arriving at the field, the team skips in a double file line as the song "Come on Eileen" plays from a boombox. It's an entrance song of sorts. "That's my favorite tradition," Hines said, "no matter how much people make fun of us."

Whenever the word "states" is mentioned before the state tournament, any player within earshot must knock on her head three times. Say it 10 times, expect 30 knocks. "We've been doing it forever," Lynch said. "I feel like if we stop now, our luck is going to end."

During warm-ups, each player takes a scoop of a cheese and chili dip concoction that has been prepared by a designated rookie. "It's super unhealthy," Reis said, "but we all polish it off within two minutes."

They are a series of small rituals carried out during a season that generally ends with what has become the biggest tradition of all at South Side: winning a state championship.

The Cyclones (19-0-1) captured their second straight state Class A title with a 2-0 win over Jamesville DeWitt on Nov. 18, giving them seven in the last nine years and 17 overall.

"There are high expectations, but we start the season like every other team, striving for a goal," South Side coach Shannon McEntee said. "I'm so happy that the girls get to experience a state championship and join so many alumni with the honor of that title."

Here's how they kept that winning tradition alive:

The Cyclones, ranked fourth in the country by the NSCAA, outscored opponents 63-6 and finished the season unbeaten. Their starting forwards both landed in the top 10 in points on Long Island, Klaum with 17 goals and 11 assists, and sophomore Keri Cavallo with 18 goals and 11 assists.

Facing a deficit for only the second time all season, Stephanie Leonardo headed in a corner kick in the county championship to tie the score with just 13:31 left en route to a 2-1 win over Garden City.

Keeper Sarah McCarthy and defenders Jess Hawley, Rebecca Buchman, Allie Ford and Kelsey Ford held Islip scoreless through 110 minutes in the Long Island championship. With the outcome in the hands of McCarthy, the first-year starter made two diving stops in penalty kicks as South Side advanced to Cortland for the state tournament.

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Katie Ford scored the lone goal in the state semifinal in the very town where, the year before, she scored the winner in overtime of the state final.

Lynch, playing in her last soccer game before moving on to college for lacrosse, had a goal and an assist in the state final to earn most outstanding player.

"We have so much tradition to live up to every single year," Hines said. "I think that drives us even more to make sure we keep the winning going at South Side."

At the Cyclones' end of season dinner in late November, a former player spoke about the longstanding traditions that her team once carried out. The current players simply nodded in agreement. They did them too, everything from the Pixy Stix to the state championship.

"It's funny how the traditions carry on through the years and connect you with people you don't even know," said Reis, whose mother and aunts once played for South Side. "You all have this bond through the team. With expectations to win, everyone puts all of their heart into it because we know the teams that came before us did the same thing. It's about carrying on the legacy."

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