Eastport-South Manor midfielder Dene' DiMartino controls the ball against Sayville....

Eastport-South Manor midfielder Dene' DiMartino controls the ball against Sayville. (April 19, 2012) Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Eastport-South Manor made program history on Tuesday, advancing to the county final for the first time with an 8-7 win over Sayville in a Suffolk Class B semifinal.

Allison Gionta’s goal with a little under eight minutes remaining gave ESM an 8-3 lead over No. 3 Sayville. The Golden Flashes rallied late and Kimmy Marra’s score with 1:14 left pulled them within a goal. A Sayville foul on the ensuing draw resulted in the Sharks being awarded possession and ESM was able to run out the clock.

Gionta had three goals and two assists to lead the Sharks (14-3). Katie Meinecke added two goals, Angelica Fuccillo had a goal and an assist. Samantha Giacolone made nine of her 16 saves in the first half, including one on a tough bouncer off a free-position shot, and another on a breakaway with 13:09 left in the first half and ESM holding a 3-1 lead.

Emily Meier had four goals and an assist, Marra scored twice and Gianna Minogue made nine saves for Sayville (13-5).

Eastport-South Manor will face top-seeded and defending county champion Hauppauge at 5:30 p.m. on May 31 at the Dowling Sports Complex.

Eastport-South Manor coach Becky Thorn

The Sharks reaching the county final for the first time in program history: “It’s huge. It’s only my second year here, but I knew some of the girls through summer ball. A lot of them are great athletes and we’ve been able to mold them. This group of seniors we’ve got is special. Dene’ [DiMartino] is our ring leader and she didn’t [score] today, but everybody around her stepped up and that’s great to see.”

Samantha Giacolone’s performance: “When it comes to big games, she steps up and rises to the occasion. She made some ridiculous saves in the first half. The sidelines and everybody in the stands, you could hear it, they went nuts.”

Facing defending Suffolk champ Hauppauge in the final: “We’re gonna be confident going in. I know they’re going to be out for revenge. We were their only loss, besides their non-league game,” Thorn said. Hauppauge’s losses came to McDonogh in Maryland on April 23, and an 8-6 loss to ESM on April 25. “We almost upset them last year in the semifinals as well…” (Hauppauge led 8-7 before Lindsay Alfano’s goal with two minutes left forced overtime. The Eagles eventually won, 11-9.) “We have to be sharp and give our best effort, because they’ll be out to get us.”

Midfielder Dene’ DiMartino

The importance of the win: “It’s bigger than anything I could’ve dreamed of. This is the best feeling ever. We’ve come so far and worked so hard for this. This has been in our mind since we lost to Hauppauge last year.”

Was there a change in the team’s mind set this year? “Getting over the hump was definitely a challenge, and I think falling short last year really opened our eyes to what we needed to do. That’s what we really focused on. We’ve become a family.”

The signature (extra) eye black: “I try to use it for intimidation. Our whole team does it.” But most of them go with one line or two lines... “And I’ve got almost my whole face. When I was a freshman, my teammate Tara Gerstacker [now at Stony Brook], she used to do the triangle design with the eye black. She was my role model and I’d try to be like her. So I’ve been doing it since I was a freshman.”

Goalie Samantha Giacolone

On her performance: “My adrenaline was pumping. This is what we wanted. We needed to get over this hump of so many years and never making it to the final. I knew I had to bring my best performance for the seniors, for my teammates and coaches.”

The sense of accomplishment after finally getting past the semifinal round: “It’s the greatest feeling. My coach and my dad always explain it to me,” she said. Giacolone’s father, Steve, coached the Eastport-South Manor softball team to a county championship in 2010. “None of us on this team has ever gotten to this point. So it’s relief.”

Withstanding Sayville’s late rally: “They’re a great team with great players. They have a lot of seniors, too, so we knew they would be tough and wouldn't go down without a fight. We lost to them previously, but we came in extremely focused from start to finish. I’m very proud of my team.”

School history made. Any celebration in mind? “Practice tomorrow. That’s our celebration. I’m so happy to have another practice to go to. I don’t wanna leave these seniors. I love them so much. I’ve been with them since I was in seventh grade – even before that, because I was around with my dad. I want to keep this going for as long as we can.”