Class B final preview
No. 4 Hastings (14-2-3) vs. No. 7 Rye Neck (12-5-2)
When: Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
Where: Arlington HS
Key players: Hast — Will Berritt, Sr., MF; John Ceballos, Sr., F; Oscar De Medeiros, Sr., MF; Jackson Silverstein, Jr., MF; Daymon Theodule, Sr., GK. RN — Tom Bermingham, So., GK; Luis Galeano, Jr., MF/F; Will Galeano, Sr., D; Pierre Klur, Jr., MF; Reed Peterson, Jr., MF/F.
Outlook: Who had these teams pegged to face off in the final before the playoffs started? And don’t lie. As the No. 7 seed, you could say that Rye Neck getting this far is a surprise. But in reality, it might be even more of a surprise that Hastings is here. The Panthers are the defending champs and have eight starters back from last year’s team, so you knew that they were capable of making a run. But this is uncharted territory for this Yellow Jackets team. They’ve made strides in recent seasons, but haven’t been in the section title conversation in quite some time. That’s changed thanks to a dynamic offensive attack which averaged 2.7 goals per game in the regular season, led by the duo of Will Berritt and John Cellabos. But the Hastings defense has been equally impressive so far in the postseason, allowing one goal in 270 minutes of playoff soccer. The Yellow Jackets blanked Blind Brook in the semis before advancing on PKs, so we’ve seen that they can shut top teams down. Rye Neck could be their biggest challenge yet. The Panthers entered the season with high expectations, but got off to a woeful start at 2-5-1. At that point, a repeat seemed like a pipe dream – they simply had to find a way to right the ship. And they did. They haven’t lost in the 11 games since, going 10-0-1 to put themselves into the final for the second straight year. Rye Neck has shown that it has several capable scorers beyond last year’s hero Luis Galeano, which has been critical to its success because almost every team has been double and triple-teaming Galeano. The emergence of talented young goalkeeper Tom Bermingham has also been a key for the Panthers. In two regular season meetings, Rye Neck and Hastings split. The Yellow Jackets won the first game, 2-0, but the Panthers got them back during their recent winning streak with a 2-1 win. So who wins the third go around? My gut is telling me Rye Neck. The Panthers have been on this stage before with largely the same starting lineup, and it was certainly a good sign that Galeano broke out of his scoring slump with the game-winning goal in the final minute of overtime on Thursday. I smell a repeat.
Coach speak: “It’s great to be back in the sectional final for the second straight year, especially since it was a goal of the team’s at the beginning of the season. It’s even more satisfying considering the slow start we got off to, and especially considering how competitive Class B is every season. The team’s confidence never waned when we weren’t winning games. They kept their team goals in mind and continued to work towards them. We fixed some things on offense and it eventually clicked. We started playing our best soccer in the second half and end of the season leading into sectionals.” — Rye Neck co-coach Bryan Iacovelli
Prediction: Rye Neck 1, Hastings 0