Smithtown West midfield Madison DeMaio celebrates her goal against Connetquot...

Smithtown West midfield Madison DeMaio celebrates her goal against Connetquot with a back flip, during the Suffolk Class AA quarterfinals, Wednesday, October 26, 2022 at Connetquot High School. Credit: George A Faella

Forget the bat flips. Forget the end zone shenanigans. Forget the post-dunk muscle flexing. Smithtown West junior Madison DeMaio has all of them beat.

DeMaio had just penetrated on the left side of the box and put a shot across the goal mouth and into the net with 14:24 left for the clincher in the Bulls’ 2-0 Suffolk Class AA quarterfinal win over host Connetquot on Wednesday. She went from running with a fist in the air to a cartwheel and then a high elevation back flip, She stuck the landing and let the mob of celebrating teammates engulf her.

“When you score in a really tough game, you’ve got to give something to your fans,” the former gymnast said.

Smithtown West (11-2-1), the defending county champion and this season’s No. 5 seed, will ride a seven-game winning streak into Saturday’s 2 p.m. semifinal at top-seeded Ward Melville.

“This is my fifth year on the team and every year we don’t peak until the end of the season,” said senior Stephanie Schubert, whose crossing pass with about 30 minutes to play was headed into the goal by sophomore Kayla Pardini to break a scoreless tie. “We’re playing the best we have.”

To that point in the game, impressive freshman keeper Emily Anderson of the fourth-seeded Thunderbirds (10-4-1) had turned away nine shots. She finished with 12 saves for a team that will return every starter next season.

Smithtown West lost 13 seniors off the 2021 county titlist and many holes had to be filled. DeMaio, for example, went from being a second-half secret weapon to joining Schubert as a primary weapon.

“She has always been a game-changer,” Bulls coach Emily Fey said. “Now she needs to be a factor in every game.”

“We’re defending a championship and I am doing more this season so there’s a lot of pressure,” DeMaio said. “But I like the pressure that comes with everyone counting on me.”

Connetquot’s home field is one of the widest in the county. While that figured to be advantageous to the quicker Bulls, they didn’t take advantage of it in the first half.

“We had more room to [operate] and started to work with it” after halftime, Schubert said. “On the cross to [Pardini], I’d gotten some space to deliver it.”

“Steph always puts the ball in the right spot,” Pardini said.

For returning players including Schubert and DeMaio, defending the title has “something they’ve taken personally,” Fey said.

“There’s a pride that comes with being the champion and we want to feel it all again,” Schubert said.

“I do take this personally — we have something to defend,” DeMaio said. “We’d lost a lot and it took time at the start of the season for everyone to find their [roles]. But since that happened, we’ve just gotten better and better.”

More High Schools