The Rye Garnets, having dropped a midweek game with Eastchester 1-0, began last weekend winless in the young soccer season.
By Mitch Silver
The Rye Garnets, having dropped a midweek game with Eastchester 1-0, began last weekend winless in the young soccer season. Meanwhile, Rye Country Day tied King 0-0 in their opener and then lost 5-1 to Hackley. They, too, were without a win. The Garnets were home on Friday to Pelham, a physically imposing team. The Wildcats were home on Saturday to Masters, a physically imposing team that also boasts great speed. Each home team knew it would take a cohesive defense and making the most of their attacking chances to come out on top.
The two local squads, playing a mile apart and within 24 hours of each other, got exactly what they needed. Rye High won its first game in a 1-0 nail-biter. The next day, Rye Country Day won its first game in a 2-1 nail-biter.
Perhaps the Garnets were the more fortunate of the two teams. Seventy-five seconds into the game, a Pelham forward found himself alone in the penalty box with the ball at his feet, and his shot missed the goal. Thirteen minutes later, a Rye miss-kick gave the same player the same alone-on-goal opportunity, and he missed again.
Lucky or not, Rye was the more opportunistic squad. Halfway through the first stanza, in one of their rare forays forward, junior co-captain Will Colwell picked up a ball on the right side and sent a curling, left-footed cross into the path of classmate Jon DiPalma. DiPalma moved the ball to sophomore Tommy Gates, who put away a tap-in to make it 1-0. It would be the only score of an intense, action-packed struggle.
In the second half, the Garnets began to assume control of the game, inch by inch. Colwell was everywhere in midfield, while senior co-captain Jackson Kligerman and his redoubtable rear-guard mates turned away every Pelican effort.
Luck had one more roll of the dice. A Pelham free kick out by the left wing saw too many Garnets, five in all, form a wall. That meant five Rye field players were left to guard nine Pelham attackers in front of senior goalkeeper Johnny Emanuel. Sure enough, the free kick bounced to a visitor standing at the top of the box, and his strike caromed off the crossbar and rebounded into play. The ball came back to the penalty spot, and this time the shot would have zipped into the corner of the net had not Emanuel made a great leaping, diving save to his left, sending the ball into the corner and out of play.
Afterwards, Coach Jared Small said he’d challenged his boys at halftime, and they’d risen to the challenge. “All our games are going to be like this,” he told me. “Tight defense, good possession, and taking advantages of the chances we create.”
A day later, Rye Country Day Coach Cristiano Pereira had virtually the same thing to say. “We did all the little things we had to do today. If we hadn’t done even just one of those things, we wouldn’t have won.”
Coach Pereira singled out sophomore fullback Felipe Gomez, whose second-half, 60-yard run from his defensive position to the Masters’ goalmouth meant he was there to slide the ball home when it came free, finally, after several fast breaks had been repulsed.
That score regained the lead the Wildcats took on junior David Towley’s perfectly placed header seven minutes into the fray. Masters responded off a scramble in front three minutes later.
Like the Garnets’ game the day before, Country Day would have to weather a late Masters’ surge. With under a minute to play, a booming shot flew over the head of senior Wildcats’ goalkeeper Blake Beber and seemed ready to drop into “the old onion bag”. But junior defender Michael Karr came out of nowhere at the last moment to clear the ball to the side and save the day.
The Garnets weren’t as fortunate in their game three days later, dropping a 2-0 contest to perennial power Byram Hills. The Wildcats tied Hamden Hall September 23 to leave their record at 1-1-2.