HYDE PARK – Isabelle LaBarbera ran off the field wide-eyed, with a smile plastered across her face on Thursday.
Her Red Hook High School girls soccer team had just beaten Rhinebeck 1-0 to win the Mid-Hudson Athletic League title at Franklin D. Roosevelt High School, and at long last, her moment had come.
“It feels great to finally win a MHAL title. After five years on the team, to finally take home a trophy feels fantastic,” she said.
The win gave Red Hook its first MHAL title since 2009 in its first appearance in the final since 2012. Winning kept Red Hook undefeated, as it improved to 16-0.
“It’s pretty important for us to get that validation that we’re one of the best teams in the league,” Red Hook coach Jason Pavlich said. “It’s been a while since we’ve been able to prove we’re the best, so it’s nice. I’m happy for the girls.”
LaBarbera scored the game’s lone goal in the first half, firing a shot past Rhinebeck goalie Dani Amidon. She attributed the big win to hard work, most of which began in the offseason.
She and the rest of the team had a good feeling that hard work would pay off, even before the year began.
“Every single one of us knew going into the season that this was the year,” LaBarbera said. “It was finally time to take home the trophy.”
Fellow senior Alexa Franceschi agreed.
“We’ve just been on the grind ever since August,” Franceschi said. “So we really deserve this.”
Red Hook now hopes the momentum will continue into the Section 9 Class A tournament. Red Hook’s semifinal at Cornwall is on Wednesday. Playing a team like Class B Rhinebeck, Pavlich said, was a good test in preparation for it.
“It’s good to have a competitive game under our belts, going into sectionals. We expected a close game and that’s what (Rhinebeck) gave us,” Pavlich said.
Rhinebeck coach Matt Grande, likewise, knew it was going to be a battle. He also knows winning a section title won’t be an easy task.
“We don’t have an easy road to the section championship,” said Grande, whose team fell to 14-2. “Hopefully if we play our best, we’re going to be hard to beat.”
A.J. Martelli: firstname.lastname@example.org, 845-437-4847, Twitter: @AJM_PoJoSports