Shoreham Wading River's Grace Hills (8) takes a goal kick...

Shoreham Wading River's Grace Hills (8) takes a goal kick in the second half during the Long Island Class A soccer finals between Shoreham Wading River and Plainedge on Saturday Nov 4, 2023 Shoreham Wading River. Credit: Bob Sorensen

Less than three weeks earlier, Grace Hillis lie helpless on her school’s turf unsure if she would ever be able to compete for her team again.

The Shoreham-Wading River senior girls soccer player suffered a leg injury that required her to be carted off the field and taken away by an ambulance. Hillis feared for the worst, having no idea what was going to come next.

A week later, Hillis was back on the field after what ended up being a deep bone contusion.

The return of the Old Dominion commit was exactly what the Wildcats needed during the postseason, and she proved that again with a goal and an assist on Saturday as Shoreham-Wading River defeated Plainedge, 2-0, in the Long Island Class A championship/Southeast Regional Final at Shoreham-Wading River High School.

“There was a lot going on, a lot of adrenaline, but in the end, I focused on getting back and playing,” Hillis said. “But I think even if I was out, these girls would have done it.”

The Wildcats were certainly thankful that theory wasn’t tested.

Hillis flicked in a corner kick off a bouncing ball sent in by Olivia Pesso with 25:18 left in the first half for the first goal.

“I just saw everyone’s eyes light up,” Hillis said. “Once I saw that, I knew we could do this.”

Shoreham-Wading River (14-3-3) advances to play New Hartford in the state Class A semifinals at Cortland High School on Saturday at 5 p.m. Plainedge finishes 13-3-3.

Hillis helped create the second goal, sending a free kick from midfield toward the net. After a collision between multiple players, including the Plainedge goalkeeper, Bella Sweet was at the goal line and kicked it in to give the Wildcats a 2-0 lead with 17:30 left in the first half.

“We always say before our games, put your bodies on the line, put everything on the line to win,” Sweet said. “And that’s what we did.”

Hillis’ return was pivotal to the Wildcats’ morale before the playoffs. Although Shoreham-Wading River rallied to win the night Hillis was hurt, the team was shaken up by seeing their star defender carted off the field.

“I had no clue what to expect,” coach Adrian Gilmore said. “. . . But she always performs. When the team needs her, she puts them on her back. Her being out would have been season-changing and just watching her play today, you could see that. But the other girls also, when she went down they rallied around her.”

Shoreham-Wading River — which lost in the Long Island final last season — captured its first Long Island championship since 2019 when the Wildcats won the state title. They hope for a similar ending next weekend.

“That’s been our main motivation,” Sweet said. “We’ve been saying every game, ‘For states.’ We’ve pictured going up to states, how much fun it’s going to be, that’s something you remember for the rest of your lives.”


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