Grace Varley (18) of Babylon celebrates her game winning goal...

Grace Varley (18) of Babylon celebrates her game winning goal with Riley Altman (8) and Lily Krollage (12) at the Long Island Class B final between Babylon and Wheatley on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023. Credit: Neil Miller

"Big-game" Grace Varley.

That’s what Babylon’s boys soccer head coach Dennis McGovern nicknamed Varley, according to girls head coach Stuart Love. With Varley’s two goals being the difference in Babylon’s 2-1 victory over Wheatley in the Class B Long Island Championship, it’s fair to say the junior lived up to the title.

“My main focus was that I didn’t want the season to end,” Varley said. “If we had lost this game, that would be the end. I wouldn’t get to play with these seniors. So, this means I get another week with them.”

The first half was evenly split between the two sides, with both Wheatley and Babylon earning numerous scoring chances. Wheatley struck first with an impressive 25-yard goal courtesy of Ashley Zeifman with 14 minutes to go in the first half.

The game turned on its head seven minutes later when the referee issued a red card to a Wheatley player. A physical challenge by Babylon led the player to voice her objections to the referee, which resulted in the ejection. Wheatley played the rest of the game down to 10 players.

“The red card had a big impact on the game,” Love said, crediting Wheatley’s performance in spite of the handicap. “I guess in that sense fortune was on our side, but the girls took advantage.”

Varley tied the score in the second half with a shot that rattled the crossbar and went in. The junior doubled her total shortly later, beating her defender on the right side of the box and sending a beautiful laser all the way across to the top-left corner, grazing the crossbar along the way.

Varley said she still remembers getting off the bus after Babylon lost last year’s Class B Long Island Championship to Seaford. But she said she’s a different player than the one who walked off the field a year ago.

“In the beginning of last year, I didn’t start,” Varley said. “I started this season, and my confidence is so much higher. I decided to just take my shots, and it happened to go well.”

Sophia Conti, who leads the team in goals with 13, owned the middle of the field and was the engine that powered Varley on the wings. Brooke Gengler also enjoyed a strong game at center back, providing a consistent physical force to shut down promising Wheatley attacks.

Love said he was proud of his team playing as it did, especially given the long two-week break the team had before the final.

“It was just great to see them get all that they wanted,” Love said. “Because they deserve it.”

Wheatley finishes its season with a 9-3-1 record. Babylon (9-5-3) will represent Long Island to play the winner of Section I’s Briarcliff and Section IX’s O’Neill at SUNY Cortland for Class B regionals Saturday.


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