The comeback was quick like a rattlesnake. But its bite didn’t prove lethal.
The Half Hollow Hills East attack was dormant for nearly three quarters of its Suffolk I girls soccer match at West Islip on Tuesday, slipping into a big hole. Then in a matter of five minutes, the Thunderbirds got goals from Athina Sofroniou, Brianna Tedesco and Alexandra Schwarz to even the score.
Hills East kept the pressure on for 20 more minutes, but couldn’t get another past Lions goalkeeper Adriane Casey. When Casey snared the ball on a direct kick from short range with a minute left in regulation during what became a steady downpour, the die was cast for a 3-3 tie.
Game officials halted play about halfway through the first of two 10-minute overtimes out of concern that the soupy field conditions at West Islip could lead to serious injury. Hills East (5-1-1, 5-1-1) and the Lions (5-1-3, 4-1-3) remain in a different quagmire at the top of the conference standings.
“We came in 5-1, so down 3-0 we knew we needed to step it into gear,” Tedesco said. “We did that, got the goals and worked really hard to earn the tie.”
“We were up 3-0. It was raining and miserable. It’s not where anyone wanted to be,” West Islip’s Jaden Hempel said. “We got a little cocky and we let go a little in the second half.”
The Lions were on the attack for almost the entire first half, dumping the ball into the Thunderbirds’ end of the field and letting their physical play and skills create chances. Jillian Caroselli scored 16 minutes into the game when her long direct kick went off a Hills East defender and into the goal. West Islip upped the score when Melanie Klein put in a pretty header off a Caroselli corner kick with11:20 until halftime. West Islip made it 3-0 when Melissa Khoury broke away and place the ball perfectly for a sprinting Frankie Robiglio, who centered it to Hempel for the score.
Over the last several years, Hills East has caught up with better Conference I programs such as West Islip — the Thunderbirds even beat the Lions in the 2017 county semifinals — and the second half featured a similar kind of catching up. Only this was much faster.
Sofroniou put a sizable direct kick into the upper left corner of the net with 28:08 left for the first Thunderbirds goal. Eleni Sofroniou found Tedesco in the open field for a score with 26:54 to play. A Hills East corner kick and shot was turned away by Casey but right to Schwarz in front of the goal for a point-blank score to tie the game.
However, Casey ended up making the game’s last big play to keep things knotted, reacting quickly on a ball to her right and making a snag.
“I was just thinking ‘I’ve got this,’ ” she said. “ I’ve got to have confidence in myself that I can do it, make the play and not let my team down ... There was no thinking about that one. It was all just reflex.”