In Juan Ponce’s wildest dreams, he conjured images of himself converting the winning penalty kick in a playoff game.
Then, he would return to reality and remind himself he was a seventh-grader on Amityville’s varsity boys soccer team. Such a role would never be his to fill.
Yet there he was Sunday, getting carried off Diamond in the Pines’ soccer field by teammates after clinching the Warriors’ return trip to the state playoffs. Ponce was the eighth Amityville player to shoot in penalty kicks and his finish into the bottom left corner provided a 6-5 edge over Glen Cove after 110 scoreless minutes in the Long Island Class A championship.
“I never thought of this moment happening,” Ponce said. “I would dream of it, but I never thought that it would really happen.”
Ponce was a ball boy last year when Amityville won the first state championship in program history. He gained valuable experience watching other young players — like then-freshman Rolman Guardado — thrive under the intense spotlight.
“He’s just a special talent,” coach Mike Abbondondolo said. “A seventh-grader to be on that stage in front of I don’t know how many, maybe a thousand, and for him to just deliver and finish it and tuck it home with all the pressure on him, it’s just truly amazing.”
Ponce’s shot earned Amityville a semifinal date against Somers on Nov. 12, but it was Timothy Hermann who extended the penalty kick round with three well-read saves.
With Amityville (15-4-1) and Glen Cove (20-1) tied at 5 after seven penalty kicks, Hermann dove toward the left post and batted away Edwin Yanes’ shot. That set up Ponce’s turn.
“I saw him looking to my right,” Hermann said. “If I was staring at the ball and didn’t see him doing that, I wouldn’t have known that he was going the other way.”
Hermann’s stellar play in goal did not surprise any Warriors. He has commandeered a defense that has allowed just one goal in its past 10 games after allowing at least one goal in nine of the first 10.
“In the beginning of the season he was a little shaky,” Abbondondolo said. “He’s just shored it up and his confidence is through the roof right now.”
Hermann’s latest shutout came against a Glen Cove team loaded with dangerous weapons. Jelson Bonilla and Alex Cota led the Big Red to a 48-7 scoring advantage and No. 1 seed in the Nassau playoffs, but no one could evade Hermann, who made eight saves.
“After the whole season, for it to come down to penalty kicks against a great team like Amityville, it means that we prepared exactly the way we needed to all season long,” Glen Cove coach Brian Smith said. “Sometimes the balls don’t bounce your way and you’ve got to stand up and you’ve got to live with it.”