What's gotten into Alessandro Pugliese?
The senior either scored or assisted on all five of South Side's points in three playoff games before Sunday's game.
Pugliese added to that total, only this time he did so in dramatic fashion.
Pugliese scored the winner with 2:09 left as No. 13 South Side upset top-seeded Great Neck North, 1-0, in a Nassau Class A semifinal at Farmingdale State College.
"I think it was about time to start coming through," said Pugliese, an All-County forward last year.
When South Side was forced to play an outbracket game two weeks ago, the senior realized that it could be his last.
Since then, he's done everything possible to extend the season. "Every game, I know we have to fight just to wear our jerseys the next day,' Pugliese said. "This jersey means a lot to me. It really does."
The next time Pugliese will wear his Cyclones uniform is at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Hofstra, when South Side (9-5-3) faces No. 2 Roslyn for the county championship.
"This is a feeling that's just hard to explain," Pugliese said. "It was just a ball of energy rushing through me."
Ryan Prendergast got the ball wide and found Pugliese, who cut from the left side to the middle. Pugliese fired from the top of the penalty box and the ball went just under the crossbar and just out of the reach of Great Neck North goalkeeper Josh Rashtian.
"I take that shot any day," Pugliese said. "I knew I'd get one more shot in the game and got lucky with that one."
It was the first time GNN (12-3-1) was shut out this season.
Josh Levine, who made seven saves, was the main reason for that.
Levine, a junior who was a backup for two years, has emerged as one of the county's steadiest netminders. He made a stop on a shot by Eric Reiss from point-blank range with 10 minutes left. Two minutes later, Levine made a diving stop against Nick Reisgerzog.
"It was all about organization and keeping yourself mentally on," Levine said. "Our defense was on today."
The message from players and coaches, according to Levine, has been the same throughout the playoffs:
Don't be the team that hands in the jerseys when the game is over.
That saying, Levine added, lately has been reiterated constantly by Pugliese.
"Alessandro," Levine said, "has been absolutely amazing."