Manicurists are likely reaping steady business these days from folks connected with Aquinas Institute soccer.
Both the boys’ and girls’ teams took part in a seemingly endless string of nail-biters this post-season — a trend that didn’t cease until there were simply no games left to play.
Aquinas reigns as the undisputed king and queen of New York state soccer in 2006. The girls earned a 3-1 overtime victory over Union-Endicott of Section 4 in the Class AA final on Nov. 18 at SUNY Cortland, and the boys won 2-0 over Byram Hills of Section 1 in the Class A title match played one day later at the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta.
This marks just the second time in state history that one school has won both boys’ and girls’ soccer titles in the same season. The feat was also accomplished in 2000 — by none other than Aquinas. Since the millennium began, both Little Irish programs have amassed an amazing haul of state championships: The boys also won in 2003 to go with their 2000 and 2006 crowns, and the girls had a three-year reign from 2000-2002 in addition to this year’s title.
AQ girls 3, U-E 1
In Olivia Guy’s estimation, her team held the upper hand for most of the state final. But that was not reflected in the score, as AQ trailed 1-0 on a goal by Union-Endicott’s Courtney Salmon with 13 minutes, 20 seconds remaining in regulation.
“I had my doubts,” Guy admitted. “But we never gave up.”
The sophomore forward provided the equalizing goal by deflecting a pass from teammate Kyra Petrole past Tiger goalie Meghan Coyle with 3:54 to go, forcing overtime. “That was pretty amazing. Kyra crossed it, and I bodied it in. It was really cool,” Guy recalled. “I was shocked; it was like it really didn’t happen.”
AQ’s Erica Henderson got what proved to be the game-winner just 52 seconds into the first 10-minute overtime. Then Guy deflected in a corner kick for an insurance goal midway through the second OT period.
The win gave Aquinas a final season record of 17-3-3. AQ not only handed Union-Endicott (16-1-3) its first loss but, amazingly, totaled more goals during its crucial 20-minute scoring span than the Tigers had given up all year (two.)
That the Little Irish required overtime for the win should come as no surprise, based on their playoff performance up to that point. The state semifinal on Nov. 17 was a 1-0 win over Niskayuna of Section 2 as Ashley Hughes scored early in the second half and goalie Natalie LaVigne earned her ninth shutout of the year. Their only lopsided post-season triumph was a 4-0 decision over Clarence of Section 6 on Nov. 11, with Henderson scoring three goals.
Aquinas also won 1-0 over Penfield in state-qualifier play on Nov. 7 as Hughes recorded the game’s only goal midway through the second half. That was preceded by an epic Section 5 Class AA final, in which the second-seeded Little Irish settled for a co-championship after battling No. 1 Greece Athena to a 2-2 overtime tie on Nov. 4 as Sarah Henderson scored both goals. The Irish advanced to state play by winning 2-0 in an ensuing shootout, with Meaghan Magee and Guy netting the penalty kicks.
In its previous sectional games, Aquinas won 1-0 in overtime over No. 7 Hilton in quarterfinal play on Oct. 28, and 3-1 over No. 3 Greece Arcadia in a semifinal game on Nov. 1.
How can this team still be standing after so many close calls?
“The intensity and the heart that we put into it as a team — we put everything we have into it,” Guy said.
AQ boys 2, Byram Hills 0
Aquinas’ Collin Lynch scored what proved to be the state-championship game’s deciding goal with 16 minutes left in the first half. Kyle Manscuk added an important insurance goal when he converted a penalty kick with just under five minutes remaining.
Manscuk, a senior defender, was the only 2006 team member who also played on AQ’s last state-championship club. A star of that 2003 squad — Manscuk’s brother, Keith — was in attendance on Nov. 19.
“Actually, before I took the penalty kick, he was talking to me because we used to practice penalty kicks growing up. ‘Remember the back yard,'” Kyle Manscuk said.
AQ goalie Dan Gremke picked up the shutout against Byram Hills. The victory over the Bobcats netted Aquinas a final record of 16-5-2.
Prior to their relatively lopsided two-goal win in the state final, nearly all of the Little Irish’s post-season games had been decided by a single goal. The Little Irish had gained entrance into the final with a 1-0 victory over Islip of Section 11 in the semifinal on Nov. 18 as Nekabari Tor scored early in the second half. In its quarterfinal round, AQ won 3-2 over Kenmore East of Section 6 on Nov. 11 as Krystian Witkowski scored all three of his team’s goals, including the winner with just more than eight minutes remaining to break 2-2 tie.
In sectionals, the drama rated just as high. Aquinas, seeded fourth in Class A, won 2-1 over No. 5 Victor in a quarterfinal game on Oct. 27, then rallied from a 2-0 deficit to score a 4-2 triumph over top-seeded Wayne in the semis on Nov. 2. The title matchup resulted in a 1-0 decision over No. 2 Pittsford Mendon, as Nick Monaco scored early in the second half against AQ ‘s traditional nemesis.
“Mendon was probably one of the best feelings, compared to winning states. It felt amazing,” Manscuk said.
The sectional and state playoffs turned out quite nicely for a squad that shook off five regular-season losses, performing consistently like a champion when the heat was on.
“We just dug inside ourselves. We knew what we had to do,” Manscuk commented. “Before the season even started, our No. 1 goal was to win states. That was our mantra the rest of the year. We knew we had the talent.”