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Nealis' OT goal sends Massapequa to state title game

MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. - Dylan Nealis stood over Monroe-Woodbury's Andrew Ruyack and helped him stretch out a leg cramp midway into overtime of Massapequa's Class AA state semifinal boys' soccer game.

Nealis didn't have to do it, but he felt it was the right thing to do. "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 Chiefs forward was rewarded for his sportsmanship not long after when he scored his first career goal, a golden goal at that, with 3:06 left to send Massapequa into the state championship game with a 1-0 win over the Crusaders yesterday at Middletown High School.

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 Nicholas Bern- hard and into the slot for Nealis, who buried it home.

"We had a lot of throw-ins and I knew eventually one of them we were going to 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 soccer title when it takes on Fairport in the final Sunday at 10 a.m.

"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' midfielder and Dylan's brother. "As soon as I let that last one go, I knew it was going to be a good one. I tried to play it farther away from their goalkeeper because he was having a great game."

Patrick Feeley exelled for Monroe-Woodbury, finishing with 10 saves. Feeley almost corralled the throw-in from Merklin, only to see Bernhard get a touch on it that went to Dylan Nealis.

"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 range 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, only to see Ruyack clear 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."

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