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Newsday Athlete of the Week is North Babylon's Samantha Muller

Alexa Meinen #17 of Northport, left, gets pressured

Alexa Meinen #17 of Northport, left, gets pressured by Samantha Muller #23 of North Babylon during the Suffolk County girls soccer Class AA quarterfinals at Northport High School on Friday, April 16, 2021. Meinen scored a goal in the first half to extend the Tigers' lead to 2-0. They went on to win by a score of 3-1. Credit: James Escher

Samantha Muller has had multigoal games before. Hat tricks are old hat at this point.

She’s scored from almost every area of the field — all kind of plays that invariably end with her hand raised in joy and a soccer ball in the back of the net. But, she’s never quite scored at the sheer pace — with the stakes as high — as she did on Wednesday.

Muller, who is the centerpiece of the North Babylon offense, scored three goals in 3 ½ minutes late in the first half of No. 12 North Babylon’s 3-2 win over No. 5 Commack in the first round of the Suffolk Class AA playoffs, erasing a two-goal deficit.

"I’ve definitely never had three goals in three minutes before," Muller said Thursday. "It was such a rush. I’ve been in close games before, but the atmosphere of that game was ‘we knew what we needed to do.’ We worked together and we got it done."

North Babylon’s season was saved and they had Muller’s magic foot to thank for it. She is Newsday’s Athlete of the Week.

Muller’s eventual winner came on a penalty kick after she was pulled down in the box.

"Once I got up, I got the ball and I knew I had to score it for my team," Muller said. "I owed it to them and I owed to myself to get the lead."

She had gone this far — with two quick goals to tie it — so why not complete the set with a winner? Muller was ready.

"We’ve been practicing [penalty kicks] all week in anticipation of possibly being in that situation in the playoffs," North Babylon coach Steve Corrado said. "She took PKs during the year. She strikes the ball well every time and I think the strength of the shot was too much for any keeper. She has a great shot, she picks her spot, and she hit it."

Even though she hit the shot well, Muller said she’s never sure about the ultimate success of a penalty kick until she sees the ball go past the keeper.

"I definitely had a lot of pace on [it], but I never want to jump until it’s fully in the goal," she said. "I never want to celebrate too quick. In the moment, you never know."

But, once the moment came, it was grand — and the culmination of a major momentum shift that happened in the blink of an eye. Muller knew that she had to be the one to start the ball rolling on any kind of comeback and it had to start once Commack went up a pair. A three-goal hole is often too deep.

"It was definitely overwhelming being down 2-0, especially so early in the game," Muller said. "But, we all knew we had plenty of time to come back."

Facing the deficit, the North Babylon coaching staff moved her further up the field on the forward line, hoping it would get her more scoring opportunities.

"She made us look pretty smart," Corrado said.

Including the first-round playoff game, Muller scored nine of North Babylon’s 12 goals this season and has an assist on another one, Corrado said. It was her second hat trick of the season.

Sounds like a one-woman show, but that’s not how Muller sees it.

"I rely on my teammates," she said. "They get me the ball where I want it, exactly where I need it. They’ve helped me in every way possible."

This week, Muller got North Babylon to the quarterfinals.

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