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Selena Fortich, Isabella DiBenedetto lift North Shore to first ‘A’ title

Isabella DiBenedetto #24, right, and her North Shore

Isabella DiBenedetto #24, right, and her North Shore teammates celebrate after their 4-2 win over Manhasset in the Nassau Class A girls soccer final at Cold Spring Harbor High School on Friday, Nov. 3, 2017. Credit: James Escher

When Selena Fortich and Isabella DiBenedetto first made the North Shore varsity girls soccer team six years ago as seventh graders, a county title couldn’t be further from their minds.

Reason being, they never had a banner in the gym or a previous team to emulate. Nassau Class A soccer had been dominated by Garden City and South Side, winning every county title since 2000. But Friday at Cold Spring Harbor, a new champion was bound to be crowned when No. 3 Manhasset and No. 1 North Shore squared off for the county Class A title.

Like has been the case throughout the season, the top-seeded Vikings and their powerful offense came ready to play, emerging with a 4-2 victory to win their first county title in program history, coach Lauren Gotta said.

“It finally feels like all our hard work has paid off,” said Fortich, cradling the county championship plaque in her arms calling it her baby. “After these six years, we’re able to end on such a high note.”

But the journey isn’t over for the Vikings yet, with a matchup against Shoreham-Wading River (18-0-1) in the Long Island Class A championship / Southeast regional at 12:30 p.m. Sunday at Bethpage.

“It’s something we’ve never done in North Shore history,” forward Izzy Glennon said. “So we’re history in the making over here.”

Glennon struck first for North Shore, firing a goal less than 10 minutes into the game to take a 1-0 lead. Manhasset (8-7-3) quickly responded with Madison Rielly’s goal about 90 seconds later. But North Shore answered with Cailey Welch’s goal to take a 2-1 lead with 24:52 remaining in the first half.

Welch wasn’t done, however, scoring with 23:19 remaining in the game before Manhasset answered again with a goal from Kendall Sims. DiBenedetto sealed the win with a free-kick goal with 11 minutes remaining.

“It’s just so exciting,” DiBenedetto said. “It’s the greatest feeling in the world.”

North Shore, moving from Nassau A-II to A-I in ability-based conference alignments, knew after losing to eventual state semifinalist Garden City last season in the playoffs this season could be special.

“When they went to states we were like ‘That could be us, we can hang with them,’ ” Gotta said. “If we can hang with them, we can hang with anyone.”

And the Vikings proved it Friday in historic fashion.

“This is something I’ll remember forever from high school,” Fortich said. “Especially in soccer because we were the first girls to ever do this. It’s amazing.”

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