Ward Melville’s players sprinted off the sideline and rushed the field like they had won the girls state soccer championship.
The play on the field mimicked that same intensity as Ward Melville defeated host Commack, 2-1, in a Suffolk I girls soccer matchup Friday.
“We’ve always been pretty big rivals with them, it’s always really close games,” Nicole Hauss said. “Everyone gets really aggressive during these games more than any other games.”
Hauss used that aggression to spring herself forward for the winning goal to break a tie at 1 with 11:20 remaining in the game. Hauss fielded a ball touched by Jessica Stabile to start a run and flick the winning goal over the Commack goaltender charging out of the net.
“It feels really good,” Hauss said, “because we’ve been waiting for this team the whole season and we tied them the first time.
“This is my first goal this season, too, so it’s a pretty good time to get the first one.”
Commack (8-2-2) struck first with a goal from Amanda McMahon with 24:50 remaining in the first half off a rebound following Jaden Galluzzo’s free-kick hitting the crossbar.
At halftime, the Ward Melville coaches and players challenged each other in a game that would decide if they were a team competing for a league title, or just to host a playoff game. The win forced a three-way tie with Sachem North for first place as each team has two games remaining.
“We asked them to respond and they did,” coach John Diehl said. “You know what? It’s character.”
The Patriots (8-2-2) didn’t take long to score in the second half, when Nicole Liucci found her twin sister, Kerri, on a cross in front of the net less than eight minutes into the half to tie the score at 1.
“It was extremely exciting, everybody was focused,” center back Liv Halvorsen said. “The whole team was working hard and we had a big halftime speech because we were down 1-0 and I think we really, really brought it and proved ourselves.”
Halvorsen helped lead a back line including, Victoria Vitale, Noelle Walker, Delaney Simpson and Erin Whalen. Whalen had a key play early in the game, which she blocked a would-be goal just outside the net after the goaltender charged out to challenge a shot.
“I love these games,” Diehl said. “We all get nervous as coaches and I love being here because I want to see ‘Can we get to that level that we’ve been training for?’ ”
“It felt like a playoff game,” Hauss said. “Definitely.”