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LAGRANGEVILLE— Arlington bagged a pair of second-half goals to defeat Lakeland, 2-0, in Tuesday's marquee Conference 1-League B showdown.
Senior midfielder Mike Nittolo broke a scoreless tie in the 61st minute, running onto a ball that skipped behind Lakeland's defense, which had pushed out to try and draw an offside call.
While Nittolo's teammates were clearly in an offside position, it was deemed they were not part of the play and did not attempt to interfere.
Nittolo emerged from a sea of white Arlington jerseys, calmly collected the ball and deftly deposited it into the lower right corner of the net.
“The ball went over my head, I turned around and there was no one near me,” he said. “I just took it in and placed it.”
While the Arlington faithful raucously cheered, Lakeland's enraged sideline jeered in protest.
“There were definitely some guys offsides,” Hornets coach Tim Hourahan said. “My interpretation was that a few of their guys made an attempt on the ball. I hope (for the ref's sake) that the kid (Nittolo) who dribbled in and scored didn't come from an offside position, because it kind of changed the game. My guys thought so and I saw it.”
Replays showed that Nittolo wasn't in an offside position. He was directly even with Lakeland's last defender, senior Chris Monteferante, when the ball was headed back toward the goal by Arlington's Merrell Wilson. As Monteferante sprang skyward to win the ensuing 50/50 challenge, Nittolo stayed grounded and slyly pivoted, spinning around to get a direct line to the bouncing ball.
For Arlington — which improved to 8-0 on the year — it was poetry in motion.
“We are just finding a way to win, working hard the whole game and finding ways to score,” Nittolo said.
The controversial goal caused the previously undefeated Hornets (4-1) to unravel. Two of their top players were issued cautions for arguing with the refs and, as a result, were forced to the bench.
“Team morale went down and we started having negative thoughts,” Hourahan said.
Arlington wasted little time taking advantage of the situation, doubling its lead in the 65th minute. Once again, Nittolo was at the center of it all, setting up junior striker Jeff Greblick on a pretty combination that left a visibly defeated Lakeland squad looking for answers. It was Greblick's team-leading seventh goal of the season.
“We didn't have a matchup for them today, so we will have to try something else next time,” Hourahan said.
With one of their most talented teams in recent memory, the Hornets had designs of pulling off the program's first-ever win over the Class AA powerhouse. Of course, those dreams were shattered in a matter of minutes.
“We gave ourself a chance to come up here and shock the section,” Hourahan said. “These are the big bad guys from Dutchess. I don't feel we got any calls our way, but that's going to happen. If we want to win the sectionals, you have to win on the road.”
As the midway point of the season draws closer, it's looking like the road to the Section 1 Class AA title will go through Arlington.
For Lakeland — which actually outplayed the Admirals in the first half — there's always next time.
“We will get them again at home — a place we haven't lost in two years,” Hourahan said.
The two teams are scheduled to meet for the final time this season on October 15 at Lakeland HS.
61st minute: Mike Nittolo unassisted | 1-0 Arlington
65th minute: Jeff Greblick from Nittolo | 2-0 Arlington
LK: Steven Reiche (15 saves)
AR: Alex Fazio (6 saves)
AR: Mike Nittolo (1G, 1A); Jeff Greblick (1G)
Check back later for highlights.
Email Isaac Cass at Icass@cablevision.com | Follow him on Twitter @MSGV_Icass