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Nov 1, 2019 10:17 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Southampton Boys Soccer Advances To First County Final Since 2015

Southampton senior defender Ben Luss disrupts Babylon senior Jake Bushery. DREW BUDD
Nov 4, 2019 3:13 PM

Soccer can be one of the most unforgiving sports. A team can outshoot, outpossess and outchance an opposing team only to lose by a goal.

The Babylon boys soccer team seemed to have a knack at pulling their opponents into those types of games this season. They played to four draws and five one-goal games, which included handing Southampton — its opponent in the Suffolk County Class B semifinals on October 29 — its only loss of the season in such a game on October 19. And then on Monday evening, the Panthers scored an early goal that stood up as the only tally to defeat Hampton Bays in an outbracket game to reach the semifinal in Southampton.

In what ended up being a rain-soaked game, Babylon had done everything it could to keep Southampton off the scoreboard, playing a scoreless first half and holding that true through the first 15 minutes or so of the second half. But with so much on the line — not only advancing to the county final, but the fact that it was the last time that the majority of the team was playing its final game on its home turf — the Mariners weren’t going to give in to Babylon’s game.

After more than a dozen or so chances, Southampton finally broke through, when the ball came out to senior Max Ochoa at the left side of the 18-yard box and he drove it into the opposite corner to make it 1-0, and the Mariners went on to enjoy what ended up as a 3-1 victory.

Southampton went on to play Center Moriches in the county final game on Saturday (see separate story). Center Moriches had defeated Mattituck in penalty kicks (4-3) to advance to the county final.

“We know that that happens in soccer, where you can be the team that’s dominating and then have one unlucky break,” Southampton head coach Dave Riley said after last week’s county semifinal. “But we’re just enjoying the fact that we are very dynamic. Their keeper [senior Noah Kowalewsky] kept them alive. Sean Godfrey had a laser of a shot early on. Hats off to their center back to get in there to head that out.

“We played with a ton of spirit today, and hats off to Babylon, but I’m glad that it was done right.”

Ochoa’s goal — his first of the season — was set up nicely by senior Joey Avallone, who got the ball in the box initially and fought through a number of Babylon defenders just to get the ball out to Ochoa.

While some teams may sit on one-goal leads, the Mariners certainly did not. Finally breaking through and finding the back of the net actually seemed to open things up for them and they played a little bit more confidently.

“It’s a huge weight off of everyone’s shoulders,” said senior defender Ben Luss, who tacked on the Mariners’ final goal with just under three minutes remaining. “We can just start to settle in, play our game, really start to bring the focus in.”

Just about five minutes after Ochoa’s goal, senior Parker West drew a penalty kick when he beat his defender, who pulled him down just inside the box. It was actually the second time in the game that situation played out, but it wasn’t called early in the first half.

Riley called for senior Diego Trujillo to take the PK who scored easily in the lower right corner of the goal to make it a 2-0 game.

“We talk a lot about maintaining composure and the mental, emotional, and the physical aspect of it, and I think that really tried them today,” Riley said of his team. “They had a couple of plays they probably would have thought they had calls on, but they shook it off and got right back in there. They proved themselves to be dominant.”

Babylon senior Jake Bushery headed a ball in off a corner kick about 30 seconds after Luss’s goal, to ruin Southampton’s shutout, but it didn’t seem to matter much to the Mariners, who enjoyed the victory.

“Feels amazing,” West said. “Especially on our home turf, having such a good crowd. Amazing.”

While Center Moriches was putting the finishing touches on its narrow defeat of Matittuck, neither Riley nor his players had a preference on which team to play in the county final.

“It’s one step at a time, but these guys, they have the makings of championships,” Riley said. “They’ve got one championship with the league and they’re going to look to keep it alive. Why stop now?”

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