More heroics delivered by Barak BenYehuda means that the Westhill boys soccer team is just one victory away from the second state championship in the program's history.
Trailing defending state champion Livonia late in the first half of Saturday morning's state Class B semifinal at Middletown High School, the Warriors got a pair of well-timed goals from BenYehuda and held on from there for a 2-1 victory.
Livonia, a Section V school located just east of Geneseo, entered the game with a 21-0 record, a 42-match unbeaten streak and the top spot in the latest state Class B rankings. The Bulldogs had made it past Akron 2-1 in the regional round without its leading scorer, Kory Zimmer, who sat out that game due to yellow cards in previous contests.
Zimmer was back to face Westhill, and the Warriors faced the additional challenge of an 8 a.m. starting time in Middletown, quite early for a game of this importance.
It took more than a half-hour for both sides to start getting into the game's flow. Livonia would start to get a series of chances midway through the first half, and in the 30th minute Zimmer struck, putting one past Warriors goalie Chris Burrows.
Less than five minutes later, though, BenYehuda provided an answer, slipping in the goal that made it 1-1 going into halftime. Good dribbling from Mike MacKnight and Nick Colella left Matt Torak open on the wing, and he delivered a deft pass to BenYehuda, who tied it.
That momentum carried over into the early portion of the second half, where it took just 4:42 for BenYehuda to find himself open again.
Westhill drew a corner kick, and Mike Parasczak took it. At first, it looked like Jake Etoll would shoot, but he intentionally let the ball go between his legs, drawing the Livonia goalie’s attention – and leaving BenYehuda wide open to put home the go-ahead goal.
Now out in front, Westhill spent the rest of the game fending off all sorts of Livonia chances. Matt Perry, Fletcher Chapin and Alex Skeele anchored a back line that turned away many Bulldogs attacks, and Burrows pitched a second-half shutout to earn his side a chance at the ultimate prize.
And that final takes place Sunday at 10:30 a.m., back at Middletown, against Carle Place, the Section VIII champions from Nassau County, Long Island. Carle Place defeated Ichabod Crane (Section II) 3-1 in the other state semifinal.