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Connetquot girls top Commack on penalty kicks

Connetquot players surround goalie Nicolette Pasquarella after they

Connetquot players surround goalie Nicolette Pasquarella after they defeated Commack in penalty kicks during the Suffolk Class AA girls soccer playoffs at Connetquot on Monday. Credit: Daniel De Mato

It took a moment for the Connetquot girls soccer team to realize the game was over.

The No. 8 Thunderbirds advanced on penalty kicks, 4-3, over No. 9 Commack, after the teams played to a 1-1 draw following two overtimes in a Suffolk AA first-round matchup Monday afternoon. Still, the thrill of victory didn’t immediately sink in as the squad waited for official word that it had won.

A sudden swell of cheering from the crowd told Connetquot everything it needed to know. The crowd’s reaction to Commack’s missed penalty kick led to an on-field celebration with the T-Birds heaving a collective sigh of relief that the season wasn’t over. 

“It was just like, wow, we did that,” junior goalie Nicolette Pasquarella said.

Morgan Elliott, Emily Morris, Madison Benevento and Kayla Valerioti all scored for Connetquot (8-6-2) in the shootout. Valerioti’s goal gave the T-Birds a 4-3 lead in the shootout before Commack’s final attempt went over the crossbar.

“We talked to the girls and told them to be calm,” coach Ryan Cavanagh said. “Be within yourself. Don’t be yelling or screaming, just be calm and that’s really what we did.”

The T-Birds victory capped a late-game rally as Morris connected on the equalizer with just under five minutes remaining, getting her foot on the ball after a scramble in front of the net.

“When that went in the net, I immediately knew, it wasn’t over,” said Morris, a junior center midfielder. “I saw the ball go in the box, saw the deflection and no one was around me. I took the shot and hoped for the best.”

Faith Papazoglou scored for Commack (6-6-3) in the 44th minute on a cross-field assist from Jaclyn Jackowski. Pasquarella credited the T-Birds for responding and said that the late offensive push helped spark the team in OT.

“This team has been through everything,” she said. “We’ve faced adversity and I think out of any team in Suffolk county, we can overcome anything.”

Cavanagh added that the T-Birds’ familiarity with Commack helped the team stay focused down the stretch, saying “we knew very well that we would come back.”

Now, Connetquot turns its attention to the next challenge, taking on top-seeded Smithtown West, Wednesday at 2 pm in a quarterfinal. After notching one emotional playoff victory, the T-Birds are looking for more reasons to keep celebrating.

 “We’ve just got to keep fighting,” Morris said. “If we put in as much effort as we did in this game, there’s no doubt that we can take it to Smithtown West.”

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