By A. Wroblewski, A. Dollinger
They are the Cougars, the mighty, mighty Cougars; and they’re Long Island champions.
After holding on to defeat Walt Whitman High School 1-0 in the Suffolk County Class AA championship game on Saturday, the boys from the Commack High School varsity soccer team took on MacArthur, Nassau’s champion, on Sunday to see who would take home another trophy.
With a 1-0 triumph, Commack earned its second Long Island championship in school history – and first since 1995.
“It was exciting… We’ve worked hard all year,” Commack’s Head Coach David Viegas said on Tuesday. “[But] it’s just another… one of the things that we strive to do. We still have other goals in mind, so [this is] just another stepping stone towards our ultimate goal.”
That ultimate goal, Viegas said, is a New York State championship, and that road begins at Middletown High School in upstate New York on Saturday where the Cougars will take on the Stallions of Shenendehowa High School, hailing from Clifton Park, N.Y., with kickoff scheduled for 1:30 p.m.
For Viegas, the state tournament not only gives Commack a chance to pursue its ultimate goal of a state title – something the school has never won – but another goal, one that he’s set since the start of the season.
“We still haven’t played a perfect game and hopefully that’s still to come,” he said. “We’re getting close, we’re playing well, but we still haven’t put it together for a whole complete game yet and that’s really what we’re looking to do. We want our season to end after next Sunday… on a positive note.”
Should Commack take care of business against Shenendehowa, it’ll find itself in the state final, also in Middletown, with a 1 p.m. kickoff.
Looking back to how the Cougars got to that point, defense has been key.
Against Whitman, Commack absorbed the Wildcats’ pressure through most of the first half. While the Cougars broke through a few times, they couldn’t find the back of the net. Commack’s junior goalkeeper Ryan Sinnott was monumental in keeping Whitman off of the scoreboard. The Cougars finally scored off a Gene Sicoli goal in the 53rd minute.
From there, against MacArthur, defense was once again the name of the game.
This time, behind 7 Sinnott saves and a goal coming off a rebound by senior captain Connor Gill with 15:00 left to play, Commack secured the Long Island title. Much like he’s done through the playoffs, Justin Cebollero – another senior captain – played all over the field for the Cougars and did it at an extremely high level.
“[I’m] very impressed and I’m very proud of what they’ve accomplished,” Viegas said. “But, like I said, we’re still looking for better things ahead.”