Junior Max Saltus stretches all the way to get the ball out.
Rye Neck Boys’ Soccer
Rye Neck Takes Playoff Opener 3-1
by Mitch Silver
It’s time for Sectionals, the time when the Rye Neck boys’ soccer players under coaches Bryan Iacovelli and Ivan Martinez usually rise and shine. Thursday was no exception, as the eight-ranked Panthers defeated visiting, ninth-ranked Valhalla by 3-1.
The game wasn’t really in doubt, even though most of the first half was scoreless. The locals probably had a half dozen chances to send through balls to the forward line, only to overhit them and have the Vikings’ goaltender scoop them up. Twice, midfielder Luke Masciopinto found himself in the penalty box with the ball on his weaker left foot. His shots were easily scooped up for saves.
Then, four minutes before halftime, a Rye Neck corner kick from the right side bounced around inside the box. At least five players got a foot on the ball in the scrum before senior left wing Ronan Heaton had it come to him five feet from the goal. He slipped the ball past the keeper to give the Panthers the lead at the break.
The second half started out the same way, with the Hornidge Road gang controlling play. Five minutes in, a pass from well outside the box was deflected to junior Alex Saltus—playing forward in a recent swap of positions with Masciopinto. He calmly slotted the ball into the net for a 2-0 lead.
That Saltus goal would come in handy 10 minutes later when a Jason Ontiniano throw-in was headed past Rye Neck keeper Max Saltus by Sebastian Pacheco for a Valhalla score.
The game’s final 25 minutes were frantic, with Valhalla struggling to string enough passes together to threaten the Rye Neck goal. A throw-in from the left side found Pacheco at the top of the box, and his turn-around shot just skimmed the top of the crossbar.
With under eight minutes to go, senior forward Hideo Ishihara salted the game away by launching a long free kick the keeper couldn’t control. With Masciopinto and junior Josh Rubin on top of him, the ball found its way in to finish off the contest.
Afterwards, Coach Iacovelli said, “This was probably our best game in a while. We’ve been starting slowly and struggling to catch up. Today, the boys gave us 80 minutes of effort.”
They’ll need that kind of effort, and much more accurate passing, when they travel to Hastings Saturday to face top-seed Hastings, winners of their first-round game over Irvington, 5-1. The Panthers beat the Yellow Jackets in overtime at the end of August; Hastings returned the favor with a 2-0 win last month. The action starts at 11 a.m.