Branca leads John Jay-CR past Somers
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CROSS RIVER, N.Y. — Thomas Branca has been a rock for John Jay-Cross River the entire season. The senior goalie has bolstered the Indians' defense and provided a boost with both his leadership and on-field performance.
In John Jay’s Section 1 Class B semifinal game on Thursday night, Branca took his game to a whole 'nother level.
The Fairfield-bound star outdueled Somers goalie Chris Cousin to lift the No. 2-seeded Indians (12-6) to a 9-3 win over the No. 3-seeded Tuskers (11-8). John Jay will face defending champ Yorktown in the championship game on Wednesday at White Plains High School.
“(Tom’s) played well all season,” John Jay coach Tim Schurr said. “He played well tonight and we gave him opportunities to see the ball, which he appreciated. He’s going to save the outside shots and he's going to save all the ones he’s supposed to save. He probably saved two or three he had no right saving.”
Junior midfielder Tommy Beck had a good take on his teammate's performance.
"(Branca) really stood on his head today and he sees the ball like a beach volleyball," Beck said.
Branca recorded 15 saves overall, but the depth of his contribution went deeper than just statistics. He covered every square inch of the crease, almost single-handedly demoralizing Somers' potent offense.
“I was focusing on keeping my head straight, going back to the fundamentals and making sure I got good steps on the ball,” Branca said. “I really have to give credit to my defense. The offense kept the ball away and the defense, when we played the zone, it was mostly outside shots. I was just doing my part.”
With Branca spearheading down John Jay's defense, Beck and fellow middie Dan Lobosco took over on offense. The tandem each scored three goals. Beck scored two in the first half to get the Indians going.
“We had a long week of practice and we worked hard,” Beck said. “We knew this could be the outcome if we played like we should."
Doug Brown, Matt Ferentini (1A) and Andrew Duffy rounded out the scoring with one goal apiece. Freshman Ryan Lee had two assists, including a spectacular one to Brown late in the first quarter to break the game open.
While Branca was the hero for John Jay, Cousin was also spectacular in goal for Somers. The Holy Cross-bound senior had 10 saves, many of which were in transition and on one-on-one situations.
In one particularly impressive sequence, both teams went the length of the field and had open shots on goal, but Branca and Cousin battled back-and-forth making save after save, refusing to allow the other team to score.
“That’s Chris — that’s why he’s going to be playing at a Division 1 school next year," Somers coach Lew Janavey said. “But (John Jay's) goalie came up huge. At this time of year, ground balls and goalkeeping and fundamentals (win games). That’s what they did and they executed.”
Alex Corpolongo, Anthony Carpenter and Michael Ashikari each had a goal in the loss for Somers.
Next up, John Jay will look to top archnemesis Yorktown, which defeated the Indians in last year's sectional title game and also in the opening game of the 2012 season.
“We’re just excited,” Branca said. “After losing to them three straight times, I don’t think that I can lose to them again. I think we’re all ready to go.”
Somers 1 0 1 1 3
John Jay 3 2 1 3 9
JJ (4:33) Dan Lobosco from Frazier Bostwick | 1-0 JJ
S (3:31) Alex Corpolongo Marc Flocco | 1-1
JJ (1:43) Tommy Beck unassisted | 2-1 JJ
JJ (0:31.9) Doug Brown from Ryan Lee | 3-1 JJ
JJ (7:33) Matt Ferentini from Lee | 4-1 JJ
JJ (1:39) Beck unassisted | 5-1 JJ
S (6:29) Anthony Carpenter | 5-2 JJ
JJ (3:16) Andrew Duffy from Ferentini | 6-2 JJ
JJ (8:39) Beck unassisted | 7-2 JJ
JJ (7:48) Lobosco from Danny Caiola | 8-2 JJ
S (6:51) Michael Ashikari from Carpenter | 8-3 JJ
JJ (5:20) Beck from Jack Lambert | 9-3 JJ
Follow Jordan Griffith on Twitter @MSGV_JGriffith