Connetquot's Nicolas Maldonado, left, shields the ball from McQuaid's Marco...

Connetquot's Nicolas Maldonado, left, shields the ball from McQuaid's Marco Pilato during a Class AA semifinal at the NYSPHSAA Boys Soccer Championships in Middletown, N.Y., Saturday. Credit: Adrian Kraus

MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. – The Connetquot boys soccer program went places this season that it never had gone before. It won its first Suffolk County title as well as a Long Island championship. There will surely be trophies and photos in a case at the school to pay tribute to these Thunderbirds.

A state championship trophy, however, will not be a part of the display. McQuaid Jesuit saw to that on Saturday by dishing out a sound 3-0 defeat to Connetquot in a Class AA semifinal at Middletown High’s Faller Field.

McQuaid Jesuit (18-0-2) played the game it wanted: with strong goaltending, aggression in the midfield and solid finishing on its scoring chances. It will play Scarsdale (20-0) for the state championship on Sunday.

“McQuaid was really, really good,” Thunderbirds coach John Zambriski said. “We were a little off our game. We had trouble controlling the midfield. We didn’t capitalize when we had scoring chances.”

Those are two aspects at which Connetquot has excelled, but the T-birds (16-3-3) did not play with the personality they’d showed in county and Long Island finals. A virus ran through the team and many players were still coughing Saturday night as a result. And Connetquot wasn’t playing its full starting lineup because of a disciplinary issue.

“This result was about us,” senior Andrew Johnson said. “I think if everything had been normal for us, you would have seen us play a better game. Half the team being sick didn’t help. We’ve been dealing with an off-field issue on the trip. This is a very different game if we aren’t affected by those things.”

“McQuaid was able to put us in some situations that we haven’t been in,” senior Aidan Friel said. “Their midfielders were fast and pressed well and we’re not used to losing in the midfield and the pressure that creates. And we haven’t trailed by two goals all season and we didn’t respond well to that: we’re a team that never gives up and we gave up a little.”

McQuaid Jesuit got on the board in the 23rd minute when Andrew O’Neill headed in a long pass from Alex Strebenis and tallied again with 6:07 left in the first half when a Kevin Miller header in front of the goalmouth was put in by Casey Montesano. Trey Leo added a goal 10 minutes into the second half.

Connetquot got some good shots – from Brandon Vecchia, Johnson, Matt Iparraguirre and Ryan Navarez – but Knights goalie Niyen Ruffin suffocated everything that came his way.

“We wanted to finish the job so it doesn’t feel good right now,” Johnson said. “But coming this far for the first time? Pretty cool.”

“They have a lot to be proud of an I am proud of them,” Zambriski said. “I look at this group and I see trailblazers for our program.”

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