Playing for a team that calls ball possession its strength, Samantha Fitzgerald wasn’t about to lose it at such a crucial moment in the game. As a result, Center Moriches is one win away from having possession of the League VII title.
In what seemed like an endless scramble in front of the net, Fitzgerald maintained control of the ball despite the best efforts of multiple defenders and angled a shot past a diving Andrea Wicks with 14:55 remaining in the game to break a scoreless tie. It proved to be the game winner as Center Moriches remained unbeaten and all but locked up the League VII championship with a 1-0 win yesterday at second-place John Glenn.
“I kind of pulled it back with my left foot and picked a corner,” Fitzgerald said. “It feels good because I know that now we have a really good chance of becoming league champs and that’s what we needed today.”
Center Moriches came out firing in the second half, shots by Takia Plummer and Emma Whittle each hit the post in the opening minutes, but was unable to get one past Wicks, who had 12 saves, until Fitzgerald managed to find the back of the net.
“She’s our workhorse,” Center Moriches coach Lea Brady said of Fitzgerald. “She’s a player that puts pressure on opposing defenses. She does a really nice job for us so it doesn’t surprise me that she was the one to put the goal in for us.”
With the game locked in a scoreless tie, Glenn had multiple opportunities to take the lead but each shot narrowly missed becoming the go-ahead goal. Midway through the second half, Kaitlin Whitehorn angled a shot from the left wing that went just wide of the far post. Two minutes later, Julie Hemphill took a shot off a deflection on a corner kick that also missed wide. Glenn (8-2-1) lost for just the second time this season, both of which came at the hands of Center Moriches (11-0).
Junior keeper Kelsey Glanzman had six saves in her tenth shutout of the season but not without help from a very sound defensive unit that put emphasis on limiting their mistakes to keep the ball out of the zone.
“They are a high scoring team so we made sure that we didn’t make any dumb passes,” defender and co-captain Alexis Parlato said. “We didn’t panic because when you panic you make mistakes.”
With the league title a near certainty, the approach for Center Moriches and Parlato goes beyond ball possession.
“Our strategy,” she said, “is not to get to cocky, always work hard and not take anything for granted.”