Half Hollow Hills East came in to Monday’s game against Whitman without a single goal allowed this season. Whitman, conversely, hadn’t gone scoreless since November 2014.
Something had to give.
In the end, it was Hills East’s scoreless streak, but that only came after it put in two first-half goals to provide a cushion for a 2-1 win at Whitman in Suffolk II. The players didn’t mind the tradeoff.
“I was a bit upset that we conceded that goal, but as long as we won, I was fine and just happy about the way my team powered through,” defender Greg Schebece said. “Everyone was helping out.”
Sophomore Ethan Koval didn’t waste time starting the scoring by coming up the right sideline and slotting the ball past the keeper on the far left to put the Thunderbirds up 1-0 in the fourth minute.
“I didn’t know what I was going to expect going against these [older players], but I helped our team get that good start,” Koval said.
Then 20 minutes into the first half, Jared Breakstone booted a ball into the air from midfield that landed in the box. Sebastian Matos found it and put it in the net for a 2-0 lead.
Whitman’s streak was perilously close to ending, and a couple early chances in the second half didn’t relieve the pressure for the defending state champions. Then, with 20 minutes left, Isaias Noel Reyes took advantage of an opening on the left side and put in a strike to get Whitman on the board. The pace quickened.
“They got a lot of momentum,” said Schebece, who headed away a shot with 16 minutes left. “It was best to sit back and defend for our lives.”
Hills East (4-0-1) turned away each push Whitman (3-1) brought. The Wildcats got their best chance with 5:30 left, when a corner turned into three shots. The defenders stopped each.
Keeper Jordan LaFauci made key saves, including a one-handed stop with 22 minutes left and two more back-to-back with seven minutes remaining. During the frenetic attack, forward Sam Steinberg made sure to continue to fuel a counterattack.
And when the game ended, Breakstone noted how despite a streak ending, Hills East didn’t have too much to worry about from the back line to the front.
“We knew we had the offense to finish the ball and we just wanted to hold it down,” Breakstone said.