Center Moriches’ Curtis Copenhaver had a quiet confidence on Saturday even in the most stressful of times.
The Red Devils junior goalkeeper was about to face a penalty kick with his team ahead by a goal against Rye Neck in a state quarterfinal.
“I’ve been defending penalty kicks for a long time,” Copenhaver said. “My team believes in me and I felt it.”
Then, Copenhaver reacted to a low, hard shot to his left — he nearly dove too far — but stopped the ball with his legs and made the save. It was one of three key stops he recorded in the final 17 minutes as Center Moriches earned a 1-0 win in the Class B Southeast Regional final at Byram Hills in Armonk on Saturday.
Liam Pulsipher brought in a rebound off his first shot and scored on his second attempt with three minutes left in the first half for the game’s only goal for the Red Devils (18-0). Center Moriches, Long Island’s only undefeated, untied boys soccer team, meets Westhill at 12:30 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 11) in a state semifinal in Middletown.
“Curtis saved the day for us,” Center Moriches coach Dave O’Brien said. “He was our man of the match.”
Copenhaver, who finished with seven saves, was prepared for his penalty kick save opportunity.
“We’ve been practicing PKs a lot lately,” said Copenhaver, who recorded his tenth shutout of the season with help from senior defenders Donald Wood and David Franchi. “When I made the save, everybody was happy, and it gave us a big boost of energy up the field.”
But Copenhaver wasn’t done yet. He made a spectacular stop from in close with 13 minutes left, and made another save when he knocked the ball over the crossbar with eight minutes remaining in regulation to keep a clean sheet.
“We lost control a little bit, and it got hectic,” Copenhaver said. “They were trying to put one down our throat, but we held our own, and protected our lead.”