When Rye Country Day played Hackley last month, there was little doubt that the game was a portent of things to come.
By Melanie Cane
When Rye Country Day played Hackley last month, there was little doubt that the game was a portent of things to come. The Wildcats, who shut out the Hornets in last year’s NYSAIS Chamiponship, won 6-4. Yet, the three-time NYSAIS champions and first- seeded Wildcats were nervous going into this year’s championship game against the second-seeded Hornets. It turned out they had nothing to fear. Despite a very close first half, Rye Country Day toppled their nemesis 4-1 for their fourth consecutive NYSAIS championship.
The Wildcats, fueled by adrenaline, did not waste any time. Emily Duarte scored on a fast break pass from Yana Lee 45 seconds into the first half. After scoring, Rye Country Day continued to dominate possession, but their adrenaline was eventually replaced by frustration, as Hackley’s defense stepped it up, thwarting any more scoring attempts. The Hornets’ goalie had 10 saves in the half.
Rye Country Day’s defense, led by goalie Emma Santucci, who had six saves overall, was spot-on through the entire half, sending Rye Country Day to halftime clinging to a 1-0 lead.
During halftime, Wildcats’ coach Georgette Summers made some adjustments to the line-up and the offensive corner combination. She knew that if the girls relaxed and played their game, they’d be okay.
Hackley’s offense came out very aggressively in the second half, but Rye Country Day’s defense held them at bay, and with 22:17 left, Charlotte Cooper drove in a shot off a corner pass from Zoe Verni giving them an insurance goal. Nine minutes later, Duarte scored off a fast break shot from the top of the circle.
With less than ten minutes remaining, the Hornets got on the board by driving down the left side of the field in quick transition. One of their players was unmarked near the goal and tipped it in. For a few minutes thereafter, the energized Hornet offense threatened a comeback. The Wildcats’ defense dug deeper and with 2:17 on the clock, Cooper prevailed again on a shot off a corner pass from Verni to cement the win.
After the game, Cooper, who is one of the only starting juniors on the team, said, “It was bittersweet knowing that this is one of the last times we will play with our 14 seniors. We connected with one another on the field, which showed in Emily’s early goal. The Hackley goalie was talented, and we worked as a team to finish the next three goals. We executed our corners, played good defense, and found each other on the field. We displayed all our skills and strong-suits.” She continued, “I’m so proud of our team. We put in hard work every practice and it really showed. This was the perfect game to say goodbye to our seniors, but also to begin to look forward to next season.”
Duarte spoke for all the seniors. “The game meant the world to us, especially the six of us that had been a part of the team for all four championships.” (The six are Nathalie Chan, Verni, Sophie Beshar, Sophie Grayer, Mariana Lee, and Duarte.) “We all were crying because the moment was so surreal. We all knew how much we wanted this fourth championship, and everyone worked extremely hard to achieve this dream. Hackley is a great team and one of our most competitive opponents, but we really stepped it up and showed how much we wanted it. It was the perfect way to end a perfect high school career.”
Coach Summers added, “This fourth consecutive NYSAIS championship win completes the journey for this group of seniors. They set goals and accomplished goals as a team. They defined teamwork!”
The Wildcats beat Convent of the Sacred Heart 4-2 November 4 in the FAA tournament and next play Greenwich Academy November 6.