If you stood close enough to some of the Central Islip boys soccer players on the field after a Suffolk Class AA semifinal Monday, you might have noticed tears.
The visages weren't the looks of defeat. Emotions were strong in the sense of jubilation because for the first time in the school's history, according to Newsday records, Central Islip's boys soccer program is headed to a county final after a 1-0 win in overtime against Huntington.
Central Islip (16-2) will play top-seeded Smithtown West (18-0-1) for the county championship at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Dowling.
In a match that featured two of this season's biggest surprise teams in Suffolk, Misael Alexis Rosa nailed the winner four minutes into overtime on a free kick from about 15 yards to lead his team to a home victory over No. 15 Huntington.
"What went through my mind at that point was that was going to be it," Rosa said. "I was going to make this shot and send us to the county final."
After "an incredibly fun, amazing ride," in the playoffs, as coach John Pagano put it, Huntington finished 10-5-5. As one season ended, another continued. After going 3-9 last season, Central Islip, a team many coaches predicted to miss the playoffs, earned the No. 3 seed in this year's tournament and won a league title for the first time since 1994, according to coach Johnny Velez.
"Last year we just didn't have any chemistry. We had good players but a lot of people wanted to be a star," captain Carlos Iparraguirre said. "We grew a bond over the summer and learned that as a team, we are also a family."
The continuity was on full display Monday. The Musketeers moved the ball well offensively throughout the match, yet failed to cash in because of the stellar play of Huntington goalkeeper Lee Reiver, who had eight saves. Until Rosa's shot narrowly found the back of the net.
"To represent Central Islip in the final makes this year the best year of my life," said first-year goalkeeper Rene Melgar, who had eight saves in the shutout.
When the match ended, a large crowd of supporters swarmed onto the field, Velez was drenched with a bucket of cold water and players realized they made history.
"We're just trying to give a Central Islip a good name," Iparraguirre said. "This is something special and we just want to go all the way with it."