SHRUB OAK, N.Y.— Lakeland’s boys soccer squad played its first game on its brand new turf when it hosted sister school Walter Panas on Sept. 2 in its home opener to start off the Seventh Annual Michelle O’Brien Memorial Soccer Event.
Hornet coach Tim Hourahan couldn’t have asked for a better performance in such a huge home opener as his squad jumped out to a 2-0 halftime lead and shut out the Panthers 4-0 in a league contest.
“This win was massive because this gave us a good start on our new turf,” Lakeland senior captain Arben Hoxhaj said.
Hoxhaj was part of a well-balanced offensive attack, as he was one of four Hornets who recorded a goal, along with Dhruv Girgenti, Carlos Del Monte and Nick Ayree.
Girgenti and Kyle McHale tallied an assist each for a Lakeland squad that forced Panas goalie Kyle Rizzo to make 13 saves.
“Our attack was able to work so well because of our great midfield,” Hoxhaj said. “They played incredible balls and held up the play very well.”
Hornet goalies Andres Lopez and Ryan Mathis recorded a save apiece.
“Our defense worked so well thanks to Gabe Nieves, who organized it so well,” Hoxhaj said. “He helped us get the shutout.”
Girgenti’s goal, off an assist from Matt Maja, with seven minutes left in the game, gave the Hornets a 1-1 tie at Beacon on Aug. 31 in their opener.
“The ball was cleared out of the box by Beacon on one of our free kicks and went to Matt Maja, one of our center backs, about 30 yards from goal,” said Girgenti, a senior captain. “Maja saw me open on the back post and played a diagonal ball over the top. The ball bounced once before I reached out with my left foot to hit the ball over the goalie on my first touch.”
Lakeland’s defense, led by Nieves, was stellar against the Bulldogs.
“Our defensive success came as a result of our work ethic,” Girgenti said. “Starting from our strikers, every player made sure to work back and defend hard to match Beacon’s intensity. All of our defenders played well but I think Gabe Nieves, our only captain in the back, did a great job leading and organizing the defense.”
Lopez (3 saves) and Mathis (1 save) did the job in goal for the Hornets (1-0-1, 1-0) against Beacon.
“We were all very proud of our performance today, although I think we deserved the win,” Girgenti said. “The game was made especially hard within the first 10 minutes when our starting left back (Noah Kemp) got tackled and broke two bones in his leg in a horrific injury. We were all devastated and angry but we kept our composure and managed to get a good result.”