Four years ago they did not win a single game, but even as they experienced that nightmare, they dared to dream. This morning, they woke up as unbeaten county champions.
Third-seeded MacArthur, on second-half goals by Greg Baumstein, Anthony Rocchio and Chris Roditis, defeated No. 4 Syosset, 3-1, to win the first boys soccer county championship in school history in the Nassau AA final Wednesday night before a roaring crowd at Hofstra.
"We dreamed about it, but never in a million years did I think we'd even come close to this," Baumstein said of his mind-set as a freshman on the varsity.
"Unreal. Amazing. I can't even begin to describe what it feels like to be part of this," said Rocchio, also a four-year varsity player.
The Generals (14-0-3) will face the winner of Friday's Suffolk AA final between Commack and Whitman on Sunday at Dowling. Syosset, which got a penalty-kick goal by flashy sophomore Richie Rambarran that tied it at 1 with 23:16 remaining in the second half, finished 11-6-1.
Considering that MacArthur has 14 shutouts this season, when defenseman Baumstein headed in a corner kick from Roditis in the seventh minute of the second half for his seventh goal of the season, the Generals took charge. But then Rambarran was tripped in the box and scored his sixth to tie it.
"After the penalty kick, I reminded them it was a whole new ballgame," MacArthur coach Andy Atkins said. "Then Rocchio's goal opened it up."
Rocchio's eighth was a thing of beauty as he took a touch pass from Jake Thomson, another senior, then blasted one into the net from just outside the box that seemed to deflate the Braves.
"Coach always says one touch then shoot," Rocchio said. "I saw the goalie come out and I just put it on goal. I knew it was in and that we had control of the game at that point."
Just to be sure, Roditis, also a senior, took a nice cross-field pass from Thomson and scored into an open net in the final minute, as Syosset's goalie did not retreat in time after joining the play on a corner kick moments earlier.
"I coached every one of these kids in middle school," Atkins said. "They bought in, worked so hard, and here we are. We play a pressure defense with more of a basketball or lacrosse mentality. Sometimes our game doesn't resemble soccer."
Today, the Generals resemble champions.