Class A final preview
No. 1 Pearl River (17-2) vs. No. 3 Tappan Zee (15-2-2)
When: Saturday at 10 a.m.
Where: Arlington HS
Key players: PR — Manuel Arango, Sr., D; Sean Coughlan, Sr., MF/D; Kevin Doorley, Jr., MF; Craig MacDonald, Jr., F; Mark Russell, Sr., MF. TZ — James Hennessy, Sr., D; Eoghan McGee, Sr., MF; Chris Mulqueen, Sr., MF; Lukas Puris, Sr., F; Jack Samett, Jr., D.
Outlook: You could argue that this has been the best rivalry in Class A over the past few years, and now we’ll get to see these teams go head-to-head on the biggest stage. Pretty cool, huh? As I wrote on Thursday, it’s been 10 years since a team from Rockland County has won a Class A title, which Nyack did in 2005. The only other Rockland team to make to the final since then was Pearl River in 2013, where the Pirates lost to Pelham. The class has been dominated by Westchester teams in the past decade, particularly Byram Hills. The Bobcats were my pick to repeat as champs, but Tappan Zee made it abundantly clear that a new era has dawned for Rockland soccer with a 2-1 overtime win over the defending champs in the semis. A lot of credit has be given to the two coaches. Pearl River’s Damon O’Keefe led his team to the final in ’13 and the No. 1 seed in each of the past two seasons, earning respect for the Pirates around Section 1. And TZ’s Jon Jacobs took over three years ago with the Dutchmen coming off of one of the worst seasons in program history. They’ve scratched and clawed to catch up to the rival Pirates, and this year they handed Pearl River its first loss in the county in two seasons. In two regular season meetings, PR and TZ split – a 1-0 win for the Pirates followed by a 1-0 win for the Dutchmen later in the season. You could argue that TZ finished as the hotter team, with no losses in its past 11 games. Both teams have core defensive principles that their coaches preach, but they’ve been able to reach new heights because they’ve transformed into more versatile offensive teams. There isn’t one standout scorer on either team; there are a bevy of weapons that come at you from all over the field. So how does one pick a winner? These teams obviously know each other well, so I doubt there will be any big surprises. The only difference that I can come up with is that Pearl River has been on this stage before and has represented the cream of the crop in Rockland for a few years now. It feels like it’s their time.
Coach speak: “For the county, it’s probably one of the proudest moments during my coaching career. To have two successful and respected programs playing for a chance to represent our county in a state tournament is exhilarating. The support over the last 12 hours for both of our teams has really been unbelievable. Our community members, student body, coaches from around the county and alumni are all wishing us the best of luck. This will be a match to remember.” — Pearl River coach Damon O’Keefe
Prediction: Pearl River 2, Tappan Zee 1