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Soccer Northstars grab AA title in OT thriller

Their work done, Joe Viviano and Jeff Gilbert ran from the net toward the stands at SUNY-Cortland last Saturday night, filled with happy glee.

All of their Cicero-North Syracuse boys soccer teammates followed, as they mixed with the parents, students and other fans that had braved the sub-freezing temperatures to share this special moment.

The doubt about the Northstars' ability to win big games was gone -- and it held a Section III Class AA championship.

After five consecutive trips to the semifinals, all of them unsuccessful, CNS finally rose to the top by beating three-time defending champion Fayetteville-Manlius, 1-0, in overtime on Viviano's goal, fed by Gilbert, eight minutes into the extra period.

"It was like a dream," said Viviano of the game-winner. "Jeff gave me a perfect ball, and I put it in. To finally get this (championship) is a dream come true."

He meant it, too. Head coach Mike McCaffery told Viviano in the pre-season that he would get a big goal somewhere late in the season -- and it all happened.

McCaffery said this title was the culmination of a two-year journey that included nearly 40 victories -- but up until that moment, no fulfillment.

"We've won our good share of games, but had nothing to show for it (until now)," he said.

To take that last step, CNS needed to withstand one more bit of adversity when, early in the final, star sophomore Mike Mastriano injured his knee and left the game, not to return.

That injury seemed to weigh on the Northstars throughout the first half as F-M, beaten badly by CNS in each of its previous two meetings this fall, pushed the tempo and had a good deal of scoring chances without converting.

Gradually, in the second half, the Northstars began to take over. Defender Ryan Strader did a brilliant job shadowing F-M's top scorer, Jamie Davin, and CNS displayed its versatility by dominating the flow of play.

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