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Cortney Fortunato scores late as Northport girls win AA county title

Northport's Cortney Fortunato reacts after Northport defeated Ward

Northport's Cortney Fortunato reacts after Northport defeated Ward Melville 1-0 in the Suffolk Class AA soccer championship at Dowling Sports Complex. Fortunato scored the game-winning goal in the closing seconds. (Nov. 11, 2012) Credit: Gregory A. Shemitz

When two seconds remain on the clock, it becomes Cortney Fortunato time.  

Flashback to spring of 2011: Fortunato scored with two seconds left in double overtime to help Northport win the lacrosse state championship.   

Back to yesterday: Different sport, same result.  Fortunato again scored with two seconds left to give No. 3 Northport a 1-0 win over No. 4 Ward Melville in the Class AA girls soccer Suffolk county championship at Dowling Sports Complex.

With the scoreboard clock turned off and the final two minutes being kept by the official, nobody knew exactly how much time remained.

After the Ward Melville keeper punted the ball to midfield, Northport’s Emily Columbus headed it to Fortunato, who lined a shot from 23 yards out into the back of the net.  

“I definitely like to make it dramatic,” Fortunato said with a laugh. “Everyone was trying to get the ball up the field as quick as possible and try to get a shot off before time ended.  I had no idea how much time was left.  I thought the official was going to blow the whistle once I got the ball.  So, I just turned and shot it.”

That shot gave Northport its first county title since 1997 and helped avenge the Tigers 1-0 loss to Ward Melville in last season’s county title game.  

“Last year kind of gave us the building blocks for this year,” Northport coach Aija Gipp said.  “It gave us the confidence.  We were already here last year, it wasn’t anything new to us.  We had the same match-up and it gave us that drive to want it even more.”  

Jessica Rom had what Gipp called “the game of her life.” The junior keeper made eight saves, including a tip on a point-blank shot during a 2-on-1 with 7:30 left.

Rom also got some help from her defense on consecutive corner kicks by Ward Melville with just over two minutes remaining.  Amanda Milazzo’s first serve went to Ashley Byrne, whose shot was deflected over the net. On the ensuing attempt, Northport’s Meaghan Johnston cleared the ball to safety.

“I was freaking out,” Rom said of the late Ward Melville set pieces.  “But the best thing you can do in that position is keep your head up at all times.”

Kayla Kelly had 12 saves for Ward Melville (13-4-1), including a sliding tackle to break up a potential breakaway by Kristin Desmond with 16:30 remaining.

Northport (16-1-2) advances to play the winner of Massapequa and Calhoun for the Long Island championship at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday at Dowling.

“It’s the most unbelievable feeling,” Gipp said of the win.  “Our girls find a way to win.  They don’t stop until the final second.”

Well, maybe the final two seconds.

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