YORKTOWN HEIGHTS, N.Y.— As the defending state champions, Somers’ boys soccer team knows it has a target on its back and will receive its opponent’s best effort in every game.
That was more than evident in the Yorktown tournament as the Tuskers had to scratch and claw their way to the title.
“We have a target on us,” junior goaltender Conor O’Donoghue said. “We want to use that to our advantage, get more hyped for the games and come out ready to play. It’s going to get us ready when we get to the playoffs.”
Somers fell into a 2-0 hole against Mahopac in the opening round on Sept. 7 before staging a furious comeback to pull out a 3-2 win.
“We just couldn’t finish (in the first half),” Somers coach Brian Lanzetta said. “Mahopac had two great shots and two great goals. We controlled the game and I stayed positive. We know there’s a target on our back. Everybody refers to us as the state champions. I’m tired of that. We’re Somers soccer 2017—not the state champs. We know everybody wants to take it from us and wants to beat us. They play us like it’s the section final.”
More than midway through the second half, Somers was still not on the board. Lucas Fecci changed that with around 10 minutes to play when he cut the deficit in half. Nolan Fierro tied the game up a few minutes later and the two teams were in for an exciting final minutes.
Fecci finished off the comeback with his second goal as he netted the game winner with just 3:30 on the clock.
“In sports you can never give up and you never know what’s going to happen,” Fierro said. “You have to keep fighting and hope for the best and it came out in our favor.”
Jonathan Riina and Drew Lasher had one assist apiece in the comeback win.
In the championship game, the Tuskers grinded out a 2-1 win over host Yorktown on Sept. 9.
Fierro, a senior captain, started the scoring when he blasted home a loose ball just over 10 minutes into the game.
“I just wanted to stay outside the box and read the play,” Fierro said. “I saw the ball coming off the volley. I just took a hit and hit bottom corner.”
Junior Alex Maher, who was named the tournament’s MVP, extended the lead to 2-0 when he headed in a throw-in from Fecci midway through the first half.
“His feet are just unbelievable,” Lanzetta said. “He’s not the biggest kid but his heart is the biggest. It’s not the size of the dog, it’s the size of the fight in the dog and that’s Alex Maher. He’s unbelievable.”
Maher has two older brothers who went through the program, most recently Jack Maher, a 2016 graduate who was a key piece in leading the Tuskers to a state title.
“He has to live up to the expectations of Jack and Gerald but he’s doing a great job,” Fierro said. “He’s very vocal in the midfield.”
The second half was a different story for Somers. Yorktown went on the aggressive and had the Tuskers on their heels.
The Huskers broke through with 28:29 left in the game on a goal from Patrick Boyle but were unable to find the equalizer. Their best chance came when Boyle blasted one dead center off the crossbar with 12 minutes left.
Lanzetta knew the Huskers would come out on the aggressive in the second half and the Tuskers noted that a 2-0 lead is dangerous because teams get complacent.
“The first half was clearly Somers,” Lanzetta said. “I always say in soccer that 2-0 is the worst lead. Yorktown came out extremely hard in the second half. They switched their formation a little bit. We were just hanging on for dear life. I think we were a little gassed and have to get back to a little more fitness.”
O’Donoghue came through with a diving save five minutes into the second half and was there time and again when the Huskers threatened.
“Conor was big—it always starts with your goalie,” Fierro said. “He was very vocal which helped us set up and our defense was also very strong overall. It was a defensive second half. We just had to grind it out and get the win.”
O’Donoghue knows the rest of his defense can get the job done too.
“Our center backs (Alex Piazza) and Matt (Sikorski) were clearing everything. They’re so good skill wise that they make up for their size difference,” he said of the defense. “They played great and I came up with some good saves. As a team we just kept the ball and defended pretty well together. The defense is going to be fine the whole season.”
Lanzetta noted that Riina played a full 80 minutes at midfield in the win.
The Tuskers moved to 3-0 with an easy 5-0 win over host Our Lady of Lourdes Sept. 11. Fierro (2G), Maher (1G), Fecci (1G), Riina (1G), Jake Faigle (1A), Lasher (1A) and Mike Ferraro (1A) did the honors.
Somers hosts Lakeland at 4:15 p.m. in a pivotal league game on Friday, Sept. 15.