With about a minute and a half on the clock, the sun was disappearing and the boys’ soccer match between Calhoun and host Herricks was tied at one.
Demetri Nictas attempted a shot but was stopped. It looked like the game would remain a tie until, like a final ray of sunshine, Dylan Dotan ran from the goalkeeper's left, collected the ball and put it home to give Herricks a 2-1 victory over Calhoun in Nassau A-I on Wednesday.
“Everyone was putting in so much effort toward the end,” Dotan said. “It wasn’t just me who made the goal. Demetri took the ball and made great link-ups. Unfortunately, he didn’t make it but I was there to pick up the pieces.”
Dotan wouldn’t usually be there. The freshman isn’t a starter but earned the spot after a great practice, according to coach Sean Johnsen.
“For me the win is so much sweeter,” Dotan said. “It wasn’t a hand out. I put in the extra work and stepped up my game.”
The Highlanders needed to do the same in the second half. Calhoun had blanked Herricks in the first half, going up 1-0 on a goal from Alex Sipos assisted by James Gavnoudias.
Herricks came out a different and cohesive team in the second. Around the midway mark, junior Chris Piccirillo tied the score with an assist from Dotan.
“It was a great cross,” Piccirillo said. “I saw the ball in front of the net and knew I had to finish it. We may not have had the best first half but our hard work paid off in the second.”
Dotan added, “I was super excited for Chris. We started the play in the back, made great passes and I took my chance. Chris was there at the right moment.”
Like Dotan, Piccirillo also isn’t a starter. He came off the bench and scored a few minutes later.
The Highlanders (5-1-1) clinched a playoff spot early in the season for the first time since 2005, the same year they were crowned conference champions, in Nassau AA.
If the Highlanders want to have a similar result, they’ll need to count on everyone, including the players on the bench.
“Herricks isn’t known for being the best in sports,” captain Anastasios Diacovasilis said. “We’ve been winning this whole season and we’re just trying to make the program better.”
Dotan continued, “In previous years, everyone told us we’re losing so many starters, we’re never going to be the same and achieve our goals. We took that and made a complete 180. We’re proving everyone wrong one step at a time.”