Emma Ward didn’t have a second to herself Saturday. And that’s exactly how she likes it. After all, she’s making up for lost time.
Ward, a senior goalkeeper on the Babylon girls soccer team, suffered back-to-back ACL tears as a freshman and a sophomore, leaving her unable to join her teammates on the soccer field.
But even as Ward, a standout lacrosse player, contemplated what she was going to do after suffering the injuries, she still yearned to play soccer. Then coach Frank Mancuso came up with an idea.
“I came back and I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to play or what I wanted to do and (Mancuso) was like ‘How about you try out goal?’” Ward said. “And I was like “I’m always up for a challenge, so I was like ‘OK, why not?’ And I’ve turned out to love it. I’d never want to do anything else.”
And Ward was at her best Saturday, facing consistent pressure and making 12 saves as Babylon defeated Carle Place, 2-1, in the girls soccer Long Island Class B championship at Berner Middle School in Massapequa on Saturday.
“I’m an athlete, so I just love being in the moment and making big plays for my team,” Ward said. “Having a game where I just stand back there, I don’t feel like I do something to better the team. But games like this, I feel like I’m able to put forth just as much as they put for me to keep the ball out of the net.”
“She is just a freak athlete and a natural born leader,” Mancuso said. “She takes so much pressure off the defense because we know she’s back there as a security blanket for us.”
Babylon (14-4) advances to its second state semifinal in the last three years and plays the winner of Schalmont/Central Valley Academy at Homer High School in Cortland on Nov. 16 at 3 p.m.
Jayne Stark scored the winning goal off a free kick from 20 yards out to break a tie at 1 with 14:08 remaining in the second half. Carle Place (13-4) scored the tying goal with 19:21 remaining in the second half, with Leah Iglesias starting a run 40 yards out and breaking away for the goal.
Stark felt the free kick was her chance to make up from a previous mistake, which helped lead to the Carle Place goal.
“In that moment, I wanted redemption,” Stark said. “I kind of messed up in the beginning but I knew you just reach down deep in yourself and you give it your all and that’s what I did.”
Babylon struck first when Ashley Bell found Sophia Conti for a goal with 24.9 seconds left in the opening half.
“I was just like ‘I have to score,’” said Conti, an eighth-grader. “I just saw the goalie coming out so I chipped it over and it went in. It was very, very cool.”
The last time Babylon made the state semifinals, Ward was a manager due to her injury. This time, as the team’s lone starting senior, she’s a main reason why the team is going back to Cortland.
“I sat out and watched them go to states and being a part of it and being in the moment and playing, it’s unbelievable,” Ward said. “It’s not even close to how it was last year and I’m just really excited to go up there and see what we can do.”
“This wasn’t our best game of the season,” Mancuso said. “But it was all heart because we wanted to get her over that finish line.”