The eighth-seeded South Side Cyclones boys varsity soccer team advanced to the second round of the Nassau County Class A Playoffs after defeating No. 9 West Hempstead by the final score of 3-2 at Skelos Field Saturday night.
“It’s nice to advance,” South Side head coach Fred Paul said. “Last year left a little bitter sweet taste in our mouths so it’s nice that we go on to the next round.”
South Side dominated the first half, jumping out to a 3-0 lead and controlling the ball for much of the half.
Senior Dane Flaherty opened up the scoring, putting a header past West Hempstead goalie Bobby Smith on of a corner kick to give South Side a 1-0 lead at 23:09 in the half.
Later in the half, South Side senior Kyle Morrissey nearly missed putting South Side up 2-0, however, a foul was called on West Hempstead in the box, awarding South Side a penalty kick.
Senior team captain Mark Romanowski took the shot for the Cyclones and booted it into the back of the net, giving his team a 2-0 lead with 11:45 left to play in the first half.
With 6:32 left in the half, Morrissey added to South Side's lead with a goal in the box despite being swarmed by three West Hempstead defenders, giving the Cyclones a 3-0 lead.
West Hempstead senior Marco Flores was able to provide a spark for the Rams just before halftime, scoring off of a corner kick from sophomore Robert Grogan with 7.1 seconds left to cut South Side’s lead to two.
The Rams turned up their intensity in the second half, as West Hempstead tightened up its defense and got more opportunites on goal.
"I told them 'you guys played the first half like you were playing on the bus and what we need to do is we need to get back to the basics,'" West Hempstead head coach Chris Van Kovics said.
Van Kovics’ halftime speech worked, as the Rams were able to give the Cyclones a scare in the second half, holding them scoreless and cutting into their lead.
A foul called on South Side in the box gave the Rams a penalty kick and a great opportunity to get themselves back in the game late. However, Flores kicked the ball over the cross bar, missing high and preserving South Side’s lead.
West Hempstead refused to go away easily, though, as senior Alex E. Martinez scored a goal from way outside of the box over South Side goalkeeper Thomas Germano’s head, making it 3-2 with 2:18 left to play in the game.
However, South Side was able to run out the clock and hang on for the victory, allowing them to advance to the quarterfinals where the Cyclones will meet No. 16 Roslyn, fresh off of thier upset of top-seeded Lawrence.
“When we played simple, things went the way that we wanted to,” Paul said. “The two goals we gave up were just two incidental things that we can't allow to happen."
The loss for West Hempstead marks the end of a successful season for the Rams, who receved their highest playoff seeding ever. This season was also the first time in school history that the team made back-to-back playoff appearances.
“It wasn’t our night,” Van Kovics said. “They were a little bigger, stronger and faster than we were. We got caught up in the emotion in the first half. The second half was more our style soccer.”
South Side will play Roslyn on Wednesday at 2 p.m. at Skelos Field.