The Long Island Rough Riders bid to win the United Women’s Soccer title ended in heartbreaking fashion Friday night.
After allowing the game-tying goal in the 119th minute, the Rough Riders lost to Grand Rapids FC Women 3-2 on penalty kicks. Long Island, the UWS East Conference Champions, finished the 2017 with a record of 8-3-1.
“First of all, it was probably the most exciting game of our season by far and that’s easy to say,” said Adam Whitehead, Long Island’s head coach. “When I first came on board, I didn’t think I saw us coming this far but we flicked a switch and everything started to fall into place. It’s been an amazing experience, a great journey, and the team shouldn’t be disappointed in what they achieved.”
The drama started early when Long Island forward Morgan Santoro (Islip) sent forward Erica Modina (Massapequa) in on goal and she chipped her shot over Reilley Ott for a 1-0 lead in the 9th minute. Seven minutes later, Grand Rapids tied the score when forward Brittany Balcer was fouled from behind in the penalty area and converted her penalty kick.
Grand Rapids had a pair of chances from midfielder Marti Corby and Balcer to end the first half but could not take advantage.
As the second half progressed, it looked like it could be a long night as both the Rough Riders and GRFC missed a pair of glittering opportunities in the 54th and 59th minutes — by midfielder Kimberly Marra (Sayville) and forward Maddie Pogarch — respectively.
Long Island keeper Melissa Guglielmo stood strong in net for her side as well, stopping Balcer on a 1v1 opportunity in the 63rd minute. In the 79th minute, Corby and Balcer had a double-chance but Guglielmo made a save on the former and then forced the latter to shoot wide.
In the 80th minute, Santoro’s goal was ruled offside and a last-second chance in regulation from forward Madison Vasquez (West Babylon) flew just wide for the East Conference champions. Guglielmo made a pair of stops in the first overtime period while it was all Rough Riders to start the second overtime. Substitute Francesca Venezia (Wantagh) put Long Island up by 2-1 in the 97th minute, finishing off a rebound after an Ott save.
As time ticked off the clock, Grand Rapids Clare Carlson broke deep down the right flank and sent in a cross that Kovacs met with a diving header at the far post to tie the score at 2-2. The team captain scored the game-winning goal in last Sunday’s 1-0 Midwest Conference Final win over Detroit.
In penalty kicks, both sides started out 2-2. However, Venezia put her shot just wide to her left on Long Island’s third attempt, Taylor Groth (Setauket) struck her shot off the crossbar and after GRFC midfielder Anna Stinson converted to make it 3-2, Ott made a save on Christina Dutcher’s (Bellport) spot kick to send Grand Rapids to the 2017 UWS National Final, where they will face Santa Clarita Blue Heat.