ORANGEBURG Pearl River has made a habit of scoring in bunches so far this season, but the Pirates knew the goals wouldn’t come as easily on Thursday.
Rockland County rival Tappan Zee, which is known for its stout defense, is considered Pearl River’s top competition for a league title. And through the first 39 minutes of Thursday’s showdown, the Dutchmen were doing exactly what they intended to do — keeping the Pirates off of the scoreboard.
But with under a minute remaining in the first half, Pearl River junior Kevin Doorley came through with a backbreaking goal that sent TZ into halftime shaking its head. It turned out to the difference in a tight 1-0 win for the Pirates.
“It was really important,” Doorley said. “It was great work by Dara (Donnelly) to run through the ball twice and I got a nice shot off. (Tappan Zee) was playing really well. They were really hard to break down the entire game.”
Player of the game: Manuel Arango, Pearl River — The senior made the switch from midfield to defense after the Pirates graduated most of their back line from last season, and he has flourished. Arango has been a vocal presence with the athleticism to stop runs in their tracks. He led a Pearl River defense that allowed just three shots on goals and one corner kick all game.
“I’m just trying to stabilize the back,” he said. “It seems that everyone has gotten familiar with each other, they trust each other, and we’re able to put anyone in the midfield. This allows me to stay in the back throughout the whole game.”
Turning point: While Doorley’s goal at the end of the first half is the obvious choice, a key moment for Pearl River came in the 58th minute. Tappan Zee senior James Hennessy had a well-struck free kick from about 30 yards out that was heading for the back of the net, but Pearl River goalkeeper Dolan Ocasal made a brilliant leaping save to preserve the one-goal lead.
Stat line: Pearl River (7-1) — Doorley scored on an assist from Donnelly in the 40th minute and Ocasal made three saves. The Pirates took 12 shots and put nine on goal. Tappan Zee (5-1-1) — John Connor made eight saves and the Dutchmen took five shots, putting three on goal.
Quotable: “We knew coming in that it wasn’t going to be an easy game,” Arango said. “We were definitely going to have to work hard and not just depend on one man. Everyone gave their best and we demanded from a lot of kids to give it all that they could. It’s just a matter of who can step up and get us a win.”