VALHALLA, N.Y.— Being resilient is an important quality for any team or athlete to possess and the North Salem boys varsity soccer team displayed that last week.
North Salem (9-4) capped off a three-win week with a thrilling 3-2 victory over host Valhalla on Oct. 8 to stretch its winning streak to five games.
Valhalla took the early lead just two minutes into the game off a long throw in, but North Salem countered in the 11th minute. The Vikings regained the lead in the 28th minute, but the gritty Tigers responded again, tying the game in the 33rd minute, and taking the lead in the 36th.
“We came out underestimating the potency of their long throw-in,” North Salem coach Ron Hendrie said. “They caught us off guard and scored on their first throw. Within minutes we scored an equalizer, but then gave up another goal on another extremely long throw-in. Coming from behind again, we scored two more before the half. On break we discussed defending the long throw and we were able to shift personnel to neutralize their assets. In the end we were able to outshoot them 14-8. However, more importantly we increased our tenacity and our confidence in our ability to come from behind.”
Michael Dutt and Devyn Sheth notched a goal and an assist each for North Salem. Drin Brahimaj also scored, while Michael Bossi added an assist.
James Buzzetto made six saves to preserve the win.
The Tigers clawed back again in a 2-1 win over visiting Putnam Valley on Oct. 6.
North Salem dominated possession and scoring opportunities in the first half, but found itself trailing 1-0 at halftime after Putnam Valley’s lone shot of the game by Lukas Azcue found the back of the net.
Mike Selzer tied up the game on a feed from Alonso Reyes in the 60th minute. The game winner was scored just five minutes later when Frankie DiGiacomo buried a goal with Dutt setting him up.
“This gave us another tool in our toolbox — the courage to come back from being behind,” Hendrie said of the win.
Dylan Monaghan suffered a season-ending injury midway through the second half and it ended up being a sparkplug for North Salem.
“That game wasn’t just about overcoming the score line,” Hendrie said. “That’s a blow to everyone’s morale and it’s a momentum-altering event. Yet our team reacted by rallying against the odds. It’s easy to play with composure when your team has the lead. It’s another thing altogether to believe in yourself and have faith in your style, your system and your teammates when you’re trying to come from behind. As everyone knows, it takes increasingly more willpower to resist panicking as the clock ticks down.”
North Salem peppered Putnam Valley goalie John Rainieri throughout the game, but he made 21 saves to keep his team in it.
Hendrie credited Dutt, Brahimaj, Selzer and DiGiacomo for standing out in the victory.
The Tigers cruised past host Pawling 6-0 on Oct. 5. Selzer scored two goals and added two assists.
Brahimaj, Bossi and Monaghan tallied a goal and an assist each. Reyes added a goal, while DiGiacomo had an assist.
Goalkeepers Buzzetto, Aeneas Eaton and Zach Cotter shared time in net, but the trio did not have to make a save.
With the Section 1 Class C playoffs around the bend, the Tigers are confident they can make a run.
“With the playoffs on the horizon, we’re feeling fairly confident in both the progress of our ability and our frame of mind,” Hendrie said. “Sometimes with a winning record teams can get overly confident. We don’t have reason to be that. We’ve been scarred and those scars are a day-to-day reminder of our vulnerability. In a sport like soccer where games are often decided by a one-goal margin, every team is vulnerable. Just as important, we are not scared. We have played against some excellent teams this year and win or lose we have grown from each game and we’re secure enough in ourselves to step on the field with anyone.”
North Salem travels to Haldane for a 4:30 p.m. game on Oct. 13, hosts Carmel at 2 p.m. on Oct. 15 and takes on visiting Pawling in a 4:30 p.m. contest on Oct. 17.
“I’m having so much fun with this group that I just want the ride to last as long as possible,” Hendrie said. “And of course, I want to see them achieve their dreams.”