Play today (Nov. 4) in Class C regional semifinal at 5 p.m.
By Jeffery McDaniel
The sky was a blustery blue with puffy clouds hurrying from one side to the other, as if being scolded by an impatient teacher. The sun was bright but without warmth. The American flag flapped on its pole in the 25-mph wind. The hundred or so fans in the bleachers wore hats and winter jackets. Ninety percent of them sported gloves. The smart ones huddled under blankets, as the Haldane girls soccer team took the field against Solomon Schecter in the Class C sectional finals.
For the first 15 minutes, Haldane controlled the ball 70 percent of the time, but there was only one true scoring opportunity when Marina Martin swiftly dribbled down the middle of the field, creating a breakaway situation. Martin blasted a well-aimed shot from 12 yards out, toward the right-hand corner of the net. The Schecter goalkeeper dove and blocked the knee-high volley with one hand, a foot from the post. Martin was set to pounce on the rebound, but a Schecter defender poked it away at the last possible second.
For the next five minutes, the ball seemed trapped on Haldane’s side of the field. Could Schecter score a goal and take the lead, some of the Haldane faithful must’ve wondered. It’s not that Schecter really had any great scoring opportunities — mostly they’d just kick the ball long, and it would roll benignly over the end line. But Haldane had a hard time getting much distance on their goal kicks, as they were hitting the ball directly into a wind that was so fast it might have gotten a traffic ticket in a school zone. Was the tide shifting?
Then Haldane got the ball downfield in what seemed like a handful of nanoseconds, and Martin passed the ball from the left side of the box to sophomore Hannah Moneteleone, who had gotten open about 15 yards away at the top of the box with a Schecter defender about 4 yards away. (For the record, “the box” refers to the penalty box, which is 44 yards wide and 18 yards deep; any foul committed in that box results in a penalty kick.) Monteleone started to her left, then deftly pivoted and reversed course, creating a window of daylight. She then launched a rocket into the upper right-hand corner of the net.
The keeper could only watch. Probably something geometrically complex was happening from the goalkeeper’s perspective as a hard-kicked shot knuckle-balled through the wind, changing directions every couple feet. It was a splendid goal: smooth pass, slick move, great finish.
A few minutes later, Hannah Monteleone’s sister, senior Allie Monteleone, got in on the action. A Haldane corner kick came in from the right side. It was a nice ball, arcing into the center of the pitch, but did not seem like anything out of the ordinary, as a number of Schecter players were in position to make a play, but then Allie Monteleone sprinted into the pack with striking velocity, timed her jump perfectly, as if she had a kind of ESP as to where the ball wound land, and slammed home an exquisite header. Goals like these make the soccer fan realize why the Brazilians started calling it “the beautiful game.”
Less than a minute later, Schecter scored a goal on what can be best described as a combination of a fluke and a miscue, as a slow-moving, wind-aided ball that seemed more like a pass than a shot ambled into the net from the upper right-hand corner of the box, as the Haldane keeper headed left.
This gave the Schecter faithful some momentary hope, which was quickly extinguished on a play a couple minutes later that started innocently enough; on the left side of the field, Martin passed to a teammate, who was positioned about 5 yards away, both parallel to the midfield-line. Martin sprinted as soon as she passed the ball and got it back a second and a half later in stride, and she was off to the proverbial races, dribbling a beeline to the front of the net, outsprinting the Schecter defenders.
Just as she was about to take a shot from close-range, Martin was taken down by a Schecter defender. The ref correctly blew the whistle: penalty kick. How windy was it, you ask? It was so windy that the ball blew 2 yards off the penalty stripe. Junior Bailey McCollum calmly deposited her penalty kick into the net’s lower right-hand corner. The keeper never even moved.
In the second half, Haldane dominated. It was only 3-1, but with the wind at their back, Haldane began taking shots from further out that seemed to ricochet through wind tunnels as they approached the Schecter keeper, resulting in bobbles. When Schecter did get the ball, Haldane’s well-disciplined defense, led by Marissa Lisikatos, often stymied the offense long before they were in position to even think about taking a shot.
There were at least five near goals for Haldane. A lovely throw-in from Allie Monteleone resulted in a goal by Martin, but it was called back for offside. Throw-ins are typically a benign formality, but Monteleone was able to throw so far and accurately that it became a scoring opportunity. A nice asset for the team moving forward.
Finally McCollum stole a pass about 25 yards out, dribbled once to the right side of the box and launched a bona-fide laser at the keeper, who was in good position to make the save. The only problem was that the ball was moving with such ferocity that it was clear mid-flight that the face-high ball would be hard to handle. The keeper crouched and got her hands up, but the ball ricocheted between her gloved palms and into the back of the net. 4-1.
A few minutes later Allie Monteleone slalomed down the right side, almost to the end line, where she fired a fast cross toward the front of the net. The cross met the foot of Martin near the left post. She blasted it home. 5-1. The final goal came on a good pass to Sara Jacoby at the top of the box. She made a nice low shot. Earlier in the game, the keeper might have stopped it, but after the virtual gauntlet the Haldane offense had put her through, it landed in the net. Final score: 6-1.
The Haldane Girls play next in the Class C regional semifinal on Tuesday, Nov. 4, at 5 p.m. against Rhinebeck at Arlington High School in Lagrangeville. The weather promises to be much better. It’s only 30 minutes from Cold Spring and not too late to climb onto the bandwagon. One more victory and this team will be in the quarterfinals for the Class C state championship.