Nov 07, 2006 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
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.
“We’re deep and we have guys that can come in and don’t miss a beat,” said McCaffery. “We were fit down the stretch.”
For all of its chances, though, the Northstars remained locked at 0-0 with the Hornets, setting up sudden-death overtime, where the attacks continued.
Finally, the moment arrived. Viviano fed it to Gilbert as they broke out, two men charging at the net. At just the right moment, Gilbert passed it to Viviano at the far post, and the senior’s shot flew past F-M goalie Matt Wopperer and started the celebration.
If the Northstars wanted to be champions for the first time since 2000, it had to do so in the most symbolic and meaningful way possible, at least in the last two rounds.
First came the AA semifinal against Baldwinsville — a game CNS had waited a full year for, ever since it was stunned, as an undefeated top seed, by the Bees in this very same round in 2005.
Under the lights at West Genesee last Wednesday night, the Northstars got a big and satisfying dose of payback, burying the Bees 4-0.
Quite unlike the ’05 affair, CNS did not posture or pose. It just went out and, in every phase of the game, pushed B’ville around.
Before the Bees could settle in, the Northstars already enjoyed a 2-0 lead, and that margin grew to 3-0 by halftime.
And there would be no letdown, either, in the second half, as goalie Ryan Goettel (seven saves) and his fellow CNS defenders clamped down on B’ville’s all-time leading scorer, Nate Bourdeau, and kept the rest of the Bees in check, too.
On the offensive end, Anthony DeSalvo and Bradley Myles each put in two goals, with Mastriano earning two assists and DeSalvo adding an assist, too.
This led to the finals — and to an even sweeter victory. Now, CNS will meet the Section II (Albany region) champion Friday night at West Genesee to see who advances to next weekend’s state final four in Oneonta.
“We can’t wait to get to the state level,” said McCaffery. “We’re excited about that.”
Gilbert agreed. “We just need to keep playing consistently, and to the level we can play to,” he said.