Sophia Conti went to the state girls soccer tournament as an eighth-grader four years ago. As a senior captain so many games later, Conti has led Babylon to the state Class B semifinals.
Conti scored on a penalty kick with 10:55 remaining as
Babylon defeated O’Neill, 2-1, in the Class B Southeast Regional final on Saturday at Shoreham-Wading RiverHigh School.
A hand ball inside the box on O’Neill sent Conti to the spot. A few footsteps later, a swift kick with her right foot sent the ball into the bottom left corner of the goal.
“It was like, ‘’This is my moment, and I need to do this for my team,’ ” Conti said. “I’m a captain for two years on this team, and I knew I was doing it for every single girl on this team, not just myself.”
The Panthers (10-5-3) will meet Saranac on Saturday at noon in the Class B final four.
“She’s a great captain and a great leader,” coach Stuart Love said. “It’s my first time coaching [this] team, and in some ways, I’m following her lead. She deserves all the credit she can get.”
It was the second consecutive game in which Babylon had to battle back from a 1-0 deficit. Daisy Flowers hammered a 20-yard free kick around Babylon’s wall three minutes into the game for O’Neill (15-5).
The Panthers responded well, however, and controlled possession for the majority of the first half. Love said he was very happy with how his team responded to the deficit.
“We were never going to give up in a game like this,” Love said. “I thought we stayed composed and almost played like it never happened.”
Conti’s hustle epitomized that effort. She has a team-high 14 goals, but her defensive effort to force turnovers and win corners helped keep the ball in O’Neill’s end.
“I knew this could be my last time ever stepping on a soccer field,” Conti said, gesturing to the turf burns on her legs. “So I wanted to leave it all out there with no regrets.”
Babylon had six corners in the first 20 minutes, and the fifth one made all the difference.
Brooke Gengler swung the ball in and found Ava Hanson’s head. The senior defender connected with the cross for Babylon’s first goal, tying it at 1.
Charlene Conkey made six saves for the Panthers.