ORANGEBURG – There would be no grace period for the reigning Class A sectional and regional champ — no time to bask in the glory of last season and ease into a new year.
The Pearl River boys soccer team was thrown into the fire in its season-opener at the fourth annual Westchester vs. Rockland Challenge on Monday, matched up against a Lakeland squad that is viewed as a serious contender in 2016.
For the first 40 minutes, the Pirates looked like a team that had graduated the majority of its starting lineup and would endure some growing pains. But despite a flurry of opportunities for the Hornets, the game went into halftime scoreless.
In the second half, Pearl River showed that it has every intention of holding on to its crown, pouring in three goals on its way to a 3-0 win that established which is the team to beat.
“They were definitely outplaying us in the first half,” Pearl River senior Kevin Doorley said. “We were kind of getting on each other – which we shouldn’t have been – and at halftime we changed everything. (Coach Damon O’Keefe) gave us a talk and our captain Christian Madigan gave us a talk. We started playing as a team more, possessing more, and that changed everything.”
Lakeland outshot the Pirates 17-8, but Pearl River made its chances count.
Doorley struck first on a long assist from Francesco Galvano in the 50th minute, which changed the complexion of the game.
“We just kept playing after that,” Doorley said. “We knew one goal wasn’t going to win it, so we just kept pressing and going for it. Then Craig (MacDonald) scored a great goal and that relieved the pressure.”
In the 61st minute, Doorley fed MacDonald to make it 2-0. And 10 minutes later, Doorley put the finishing touch on the impressive win with his second goal on an assist from MacDonald.
Senior goalkeeper Dolan Ocasal was a critical part of the win, as well, finishing with nine saves.
“We were all nervous, but we were excited for the first game,” Doorley said. “They’re a great rival and we knew it was going to be a tough game, which made it even better. We know every team has a target on us now, but we enjoy that. Every game is going to be difficult, but it’s more fun that way.”
Tappan Zee 3, Byram Hills 1: In a rematch of last year’s Class A semifinal, Jorge Umana scored a goal and assisted on goals by Sam Gould and Ciaran Shalvey. Max Hammond scored in the opening 32 seconds for the Bobcats. Connor Callan made seven saves for the Dutchmen.
Albertus Magnus 2, Valhalla 1: JoJo Michalak scored both goals for the Falcons, the first on a corner kick from Adrian Mayorga and the second on a direct kick from 35 yards out. Joey Marmo scored on an assist from Ethan Bartlett for the Vikings. Sophomore Steven Travaglini made six saves in his first varsity start for the Falcons.
Scarsdale 2, North Rockland 1: Michael Spiro assisted on goals from Chris Gaujean and Owen Hall. Kenji Harper scored the lone goal for the Red Raiders on an assist from Danny Lopez.
Mamaroneck 2, Suffern 1: Conor LeBlanc scored the winning goal in the 55th minute and Cole DiCicco scored on an assist from Cameron Richards. Myles Solan scored on an assist from Zac Lloyd in the 29th minute to give the Mounties a 1-0 lead. Dante Rhodes made four saves for the Tigers.