The Massapequa girls soccer team celebrates after Hope Breslin scored...

The Massapequa girls soccer team celebrates after Hope Breslin scored the first and only goal for the team, defeating Clarence, 1-0, to win the New York State Public High School Athletic Association girls soccer state semifinals in Dryden, N.Y., Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014 Credit: Heather Ainsworth

Mikayla Pugliese rallied her teammates with one impassioned plea after another as Massapequa was locked in a scoreless tie Saturday. At one point, she dropped to her knees and slammed her hands against the ground, imploring her team to capitalize on this opportunity.

Pugliese did all that from the bench, bundled up with gloves and a jacket on.

"I'm energetic and loud, so I try to fire everyone up," she said. "But I was really wishing I could be on the field and help."

Then she was. And she did.

Pugliese subbed in as time dwindled and, within a few minutes, she fed Hope Breslin for a goal, lifting Massapequa to a 1-0 win over Clarence in a state Class AA girls soccer semifinal.

"For her to go in cold and make something happen right away was awesome," senior Jessica Ammendola said. "She's definitely a leader."

In words and, when it mattered most, in deed.

Pugliese beat an opponent to a loose ball near the 40, controlled it and sent a precise cross pass to Breslin on the left flank inside the box. Breslin positioned herself and fired with her left foot toward the far corner. The shot, from about 12 yards, sneaked inside the right post with 2:05 remaining.

"It's hard to describe this feeling," Breslin said. "Knowing that I just contribute something to help my team reach the final. That's unbelievable."

But not unusual. The sophomore also scored in last year's state semifinal as Massapequa went on to capture the state championship. The Chiefs (16-1-3) will face North Rockland at 9:30 a.m. Sunday at SUNY Cortland in a rematch of the last year's final.

Breslin had a chance to score from a similar spot about 10 minutes earlier, but "my foot just didn't connect with it right and the shot didn't have enough to go in." The roller was stopped by Molly Barden, who made 20 saves for Clarence (20-1).

"It was great that I got a second chance and Mikayla set me up so well," Breslin said. "That pass had perfect placement."

Massapequa controlled possession and created several scoring chances but couldn't finish. That was in part because the Chiefs were without leading scorer Kristen Bischoff, who suffered a broken collarbone during a practice last week.

A missed header from close range off a corner kick with 13:38 left prompted Pugliese's most animated reaction. With her hands on the ground, she yelled, "We've worked too hard to let this slip away!"

With his team in need of an offensive spark, coach Bruce Stegner called Pugliese's number with about six minutes remaining. His instructions to the junior were simple: Help the Chiefs score. "Mikayla is a really good passer with good vision and field sense," Stegner said. "She's capable of making an impact."

Rebecca White had three saves, including a diving stop with 37 minutes left. Skylar Vitiello, despite being hampered by a sore ankle, forced several turnovers along the sideline, and Olivia Stegner and Melanie Hingher were dominant in the defensive midfield. Still, there was nothing to show for it.

"It did get frustrating at times," Vitiello said. "But we've got some vocal leaders who keep everyone composed and pumped up."

One of them speaks loudly and delivered a big kick.


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