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Finn Connolly gets bounce and boots Garden City to Nassau Class A crown

Finn Connolly #11 of Garden City gains possession

Finn Connolly #11 of Garden City gains possession during the Nassau County boys soccer Class A final against Glen Cove at Mitchel Athletic Complex on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. He scored a goal to break a 2-2 tie with 8:41 remaining in the second half and lead the Trojans to a 3-2 win. Credit: James Escher

Finn Connolly and many of his Garden City boys soccer teammates have experienced their share of heartbreaking, late-game losses in recent seasons.

So after No. 12 Glen Cove twice battled back from one-goal deficits in the second half, Connolly hoped for a chance to help No. 3 Garden City reverse the recent curse.

"I saw that ball bouncing around the box," he said, "and I was just praying it would bounce out to me and give me a chance to put it in."

That’s exactly what happened. The senior forward scored from the top of the box with 8:41 remaining as Garden City topped a gritty Glen Cove, 3-2, in an entertaining Nassau Class A boys soccer final at Mitchel Field on Wednesday.

Garden City (16-1-1) plays the Amityville/Sayville winner at noon Sunday at Longwood for the Long Island Class A championship.

The Trojans — who have now won or shared 12 Nassau titles according to Newsday records — experienced agonizing losses in their final games of the postseason in 2018 and 2019. They also coughed up a two-goal lead to Great Neck North this past spring as both teams were co-champions.

"These late-game goals hurt," Connolly said, "and it really just defeats you."

The Trojans felt a bit of deja vu, as Chrystian Hernandez scored the equalizer for Glen Cove (12-5-1) with 17:27 left in regulation to knot the score at 1.

But the Trojans’ Marco Russo answered 76 seconds later to help Garden City retake the lead. Hernandez, who was outstanding all game, wasn’t finished as his goal in the 71st minute made it 2-2.

Just 61 seconds later, Connolly -- the third of three Connolly brothers (Luke graduated in 2018 and James in 2020) -- put the Trojans ahead for good.

"We’ve had a few games when we got a goal down and had the character and heart to bounce back," Trojans coach Paul Cutter said. "It’s a weight off our shoulders."

The Trojans held a 1-0 lead after a goal from Christian Pica in the 16th minute. Garden City defender Ryan Buccellato, who played with a soft cast on his healing left wrist, blocked a shot with his back heel late in the first half.

It was one of six blocked shots by the Trojans defense that also included Spencer Caporicci and Connor Brock.

"Our defense always takes on the toughest forwards," Connolly said. "I couldn’t be more proud of them."

Connolly now hopes he can help the Trojans make their first trip upstate since 2017, when his brother, Luke, was a captain.

"I’m just trying to follow in their footsteps," he said. "That’s what I’m trying to replicate here."

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