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Go time: Extended state semis preview

Sachem East's Karyn Ryan

Sachem East's Karyn Ryan Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Class A: Sachem East (19-1) vs. Greene, 11:30 a.m.

Even a year ago, it just seemed like Sachem East was on the verge on something special. They had the talent, depth and poise - the look of a championship team. Ward  Melville was able to hold them down once more in 2010 - with a 1-0 overtime win the Suffolk final - but them reaching that game and competing how they did was, in a way, a checkpoint along their journey. Then there was the fact the Flaming Arrows would return a good portion of its core. This was a locomotive building steam, and the rumbling along the tracks could be heard.

This season has been the manifestation of that ability and hunger coming together at the right time. Sachem East has hop scotched through the season to this point. There was the one stumble - a 3-1 loss to Smithtown East in the penultimate game of the regular season - but they’ve since outscored opponents 21-3. That includes a 5-0 “revenge” win over Ward Melville in the county final to earn their first Suffolk championship, and a 6-1 win over Massapequa in the Long Island Championship.

There’s definitely a calm confidence about this team (we’ll call it Arrow swag). Midfielder Katie Trombetta has said they want to “show everyone we’re No. 1.” They know they’re good, they expect to win, their accomplishments don’t surprise them, and they’re thinking big picture. The possibility existed that they could’ve overreacted to winning the county title and, if even subconsciously, treat that as the grand prize - given their history with Ward Melville, and it being their first championship - but this team looks at its prior wins as steps toward the goal. They want the state championship and they’re convinced it can be theirs.

The opponent: Greene is 17-0, coming off a 1-0 win over Shenendehowa in the regional final. Greene won the 2009 state championship but lost in penalty strokes to Mamaroneck in last year's semifinals. Greene has reached the state semis the last four seasons.

“We're confident,” Trombetta sad. “Nothing changes for us because it's states. We have to stay focused and play our game. If we do, we can be successful… We won't go home without knowing that we tried our best.”

 

Class B: Garden City (16-0-1) vs. Maine-Endwell (13-1-1), 3:30 p.m.

The Trojans have outscored opponents 71-5. That’s an astounding disparity. But even more indicative of their consistence and dominance is this: You probably didn’t have much of a reaction to those numbers. It’s come to be expected. As is this: Garden City competing for a state title.

The Trojans lost several seniors from last year’s state Class B finalist team, including five starters, but they’re in the same position they were a year ago with a similar record. And who’s surprised? Alexandra Bruno picked up where she left off last season and is a terror in the circle; Tara Mahon has become a terrific ball-control defensive midfielder; Catherine McTiernan is again a scoring threat on the wing; Jenna Fuchs, Charlotte Castronovo, Kathryn Montgomery and Victoria Piscopo are enjoying breakout seasons. Some more names could be thrown in there, but you get the idea.

The opponent: Maine-Endwell is 13-1-1, coming off a 3-1 win over Johnstown in the regional final. This will be the Spartans eighth straight appearance in the state tournament - they won it all in 2004. They’re led by all-state junior Gabby Stein.

And there’s Lakeland, which competes in the other semifinal. The Hornets have won the last two Class B state titles, twice upending Garden City in the process. Lakeland returns much of its core, including All-Americans Shannon Scavelli and Emma Bozek.

“They’re a phenomenal team, but we wouldn't face them until the final, so we can't be thinking about them,” coach Diane Chapman said. “We have to worry about [Maine-Endwell] first.”

Very true. As the bromide goes, they have to take it one game at a time. Any team that makes the state final four is capable of winning; no team that gets this deep into the postseason should be overlooked, regardless of who might loom in the next round. That's understood. But I'd be remissed (and I wouldn't be AnnoyingNewsdayGuy) if I didn't get some thoughts on Lakeland…

“I play with a lot of them in club [field hockey] so I know they're really great players,” Bruno said of Lakeland. Coincidentally, Hornets coach Sharon Sarsen is her club coach. “If we do face them, it'll be a tough game; our toughest. But that means we have to step it up and work really hard in practice if we want to compete.”

 

Class C: Friends Academy (10-6) vs. Greenwich (20-0), 7:30 p.m.

Bonnie Tyler would’ve marveled at this turn-around (relatively obscure reference, I know). Friends Academy, as you've probably heard and read a bunch of times, started the season 0-5. They’ve since gone on a 10-1 run to reach to reach today‘s Class B state semifinal.

What changed? Well, for one, the Quakers weren’t as bad as that start suggested, given who they lost to. They dropped the season opener, 1-0, to Cold Spring Harbor. The Seahawks went on to make the Nassau Class B final… A 2-1 loss to perennial power Manhasset… A 3-1 loss to three-time defending Nassau Class A champ Massapequa… A 5-4 loss to North Shore, a Class B county finalist in 2010... A 5-1 loss to Garden City, which, yeah…

That’s a tough opening schedule for any team, certainly so for one that lost some key players (including Taylor Ross to graduation and Bridie Gahan to surgery). The team had to learn to play without two of its pillars, adjusting while rebuilding. They’ve since found that chemistry.

One tangible difference has been the increased offensive production in the Quakers’ last 11 games. They’ve outscored opponents 47-6 during this run as Friends Academy captured its first Long Island championship since 2006.

“We’ve been envisioning this for the last five years,” coach Christine Botti said after . winning the Long Island championship. “We've fallen short every year. Every year it's, 'I know you gave it your all, but we'll come back and get 'em next time.' It's nice to tell them, 'I know you gave it your all, and I'll see you at practice.'“

The opponent: Greenwich is 20-0 and beat Sidney, 2-0, in the regional to reach the state final four. The Witches (yeah, kind of an odd team name) have outscored opponents 83-1. (That's impressive, regardless of the level of competition in their section in that class.) They’re led by forward Dani DeGregory, who has 34 goals this season. Goalie Sam Whitehouse has 19 shutouts. Greenwich has won three straight Section II Class C titles, but lost in last year’s regional final to Cazenovia, the team that edged Pierson/Bridgehampton, 1-0, in the state final.

“Me and my teammates are excited and we're going to give it our all,” Quakers forward Erica Sklar said. “Whatever happens, happens.”

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