Dylan Nealis' OT goal sends Massapequa to finals
MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. -- Massapequa's Dylan Nealis stood over his fallen opponent and helped him stretch out a leg cramp with 6:56 remaining in the first golden goal overtime session of a state Class AA boys semifinal soccer game Saturday.
"I was trying to be a good sport," Nealis said. "I saw the kid was holding his calf and I just wanted to help out."
The forward was rewarded not long after when he scored his first career goal with 3:06 left to give Massapequa a 1-0 win over Monroe-Woodbury and a trip to the state championship game.
Nealis was in the right place at the right time after defender Brandon Merklin's long throw-in from the right sideline went off the foot of forward/midfielder Nicholas Bernhard and into the slot for Nealis, who buried it.
"We had a lot of throw-ins and I knew eventually one of them [was] going to [be] put in," Nealis said. "It's a complete honor to be a sophomore and score the winning goal."
Bernhard was instrumental in making it happen for Massapequa (15-1-2), which seeks its first state title Sunday at 10 a.m. against Fairport.
"We had like 20 throw-ins today and I was trying to get them to our big guy, Sean Nealis," Bernhard said of the Chiefs' junior midfielder and brother of Dylan. "As soon as I let that last one go, I knew it was going to be a good one. I tried to play it further away from their goalkeeper because he was having a great game."
Patrick Feeley was great for Monroe-Woodbury, finishing with a game-high 10 saves. Feeley almost corralled the throw-in from Merklin, only to see Bernhard get a touch on it, before Nealis took over.
"I saw the ball pop up and I took a shot. Got a piece of it and it went right over to Dylan," Bernhard said. "I just tried to keep it in that dangerous area where it's alive in the box. To get this opportunity is a great feeling."
Massapequa goalkeeper Dan Vitiello had four saves, his best coming in the 18th minute, a sprawling save on a point-blank shot by Monroe-Woodbury's Brian Kinsella. For the Chiefs, their best opportunities to end it in regulation came in the seventh minute on a blast by midfielder Brendan Gallivan, who hit the crossbar, and Brendan Raab's chip shot that nearly went over the goal line in the 57th minute but Andrew Ruyack -- who later suffered the cramp -- cleared it away.
Every time his club steps on the field, Massapequa coach Keith Stanley expects his team to be one step quicker than the opposition. Feeley said the Chiefs were "definitely a lot quicker and they beat us to every ball. They wanted it more."
Said Stanley: "I knew that goal was going to come, yet anything can happen in a 0-0 game. I felt it was our game to be had."