No words were exchanged. No hand signals were given. Just a glance – eyes meeting between Port Washington seniors Savvas Christoforou and Charlie Gilsenan – and both knew precisely what to do.
Christoforou had a direct kick about 25 yards from the Whitman goal. He lofted the ball high toward the post and Gilsenan went above everyone else to get it. His header into the right side of the net snapped a tie with 9:06 to play and proved to be the difference as Port Washington pulled out a 2-1 victory in the Long Island Class AA championship Sunday at Diamond in the Pines in Coram.
Port Washington (12-6) will face Clarence (18-2) of Section VI in a state Class AA semifinal at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Middletown High School.
“We made eye contact and knew what to do,” said Christoforou, who started a comeback from a 1-0 halftime deficit with a tying goal 10 minutes into the second half. “I confidently hit the ball, and thankfully he put it in the back of the net.”
“My teammates have said I have ups,” Gilsenan said, “but that goal was about Savvas putting it exactly where I needed it. Over the season, I’ve had goals mostly on headers, so that’s my type of goal.”
Making the goal even more dramatic was that it came at the end of a hairpin turn in the game’s unfolding story. With the score tied, Herson Cisnos of Whitman (17-4) appeared to put his team ahead, but the goal was disallowed on an offside call with 10:45 to play. Gilsenan scored less than two minutes later.
“It’s soccer. If you play a much bigger, faster football team or basketball team, you’ll get ground down and the bigger and faster team is usually going to win,” Vikings coach Don Fish said. “Soccer is a different kind of sport: any team can beat any other team once on a given day. Maybe we play Whitman eight times and they win five or six, but we got this one today.”
Whitman, the aggressor before halftime, took a 1-0 lead 26:16 into the game. Jason Quintanilla took a penalty kick after a hand ball call, and Port Washington keeper Jonathan Nadolne made a fabulous diving stop, but Quintanilla stayed with it and put the rebound in over the splayed Nadolne.
After the break, the Vikings were the more aggressive team.
”At first, I was a little scared,’’ Jack Fridman said. “Then I realized we are no joke. This team can beat anyone. We got the team into the right mindset. The first half, I think we were nervous, passive and making mistakes. But once we got back in the game, we took control.”
Jose Lima-Sagastune got free with the ball on the right side and left a perfect lead pass for Christoforou, who came in from the left wing to drive the ball into the right side of the goal, tying it with 30:08 to play.
The Vikings’ climb to the Long Island crown was unexpected. They were seeded eighth of nine for the Nassau tournament and beat seeds 1, 5 and 3 -- all by one goal -- for their first county title.
“It really is a Cinderella story,” Fridman said. “No one believed that we were capable of doing this. But I’ll tell you this team has quality and, above all, heart. . . . We leave everything on the field for each other.”