The scoreboard was directly in the line of sight for Jennifer Kruszewski, so she knew exactly how little time she had left to make a play.
With the final seconds ticking away in the first half, the Smithtown West midfielder sent a cross to the middle of the field. Isabella Justino finished the play with a header with 11.7 seconds remaining in the opening period for the game’s lone goal as host top-seeded Smithtown West defeated No. 4 Centereach, 1-0, in a Suffolk Class AA semifinal girls soccer matchup Friday afternoon.
“I was just like ‘11 seconds on the clock, I have to give everything I have’ and that’s definitely what we did,” Kruszewski said. “Once I sent it, I knew ‘We got this.’ ”
Justino, aware a half filled with chances was just seconds away from ending scoreless, made sure she finished the play.
“The energy was so high and everyone was pushing up and I knew I had to get a head on it,” Justino said. “I had to make a difference in the game and it ended up being the difference. That’s what we needed.”
Smithtown West (15-0-1) advances to play West Islip in the Suffolk Class AA championship at 1 p.m. Tuesday at North Babylon. Smithtown West won last season’s county championship and advanced to the state semifinals. Centereach ends its season at 13-6.
“We knew how much of an exciting moment it was last year,” midfielder Jillian Meaney said, “so we definitely just want to get back there and keep pushing and we’re there. So we have to show up to play.”
With strong winds playing a factor throughout much of the contest, the Bulls understood the importance of striking in the first half with the breeze in their favor. And coach Rob Schretzmayer wasn’t shocked at the two finishing the key play.
“It’s no surprise that it was two seniors to connect and get it done,” he said. “And two that have been on the field for moments like that and know how important every second is, especially in the closing moments of a half.”
The Bulls’ backline, consisting of Isabella Casucci, Nicolle Marshall, Katelyn Sheuchenko and Allyson Chapman, with Emily Wallace in goal limited the scoring chances for Centereach, holding onto the victory after Kruszewski and Justino connected for the winning strike.
“[Kruszewski] knew something was going to come out of that,” Justino said. “And whoever followed it, that was going to be the hero.”