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With both goalies playing well and their respective teams struggling to finish, it seemed inevitable that Wednesday's NYS Class A regional semifinal between Section 9's Goshen and Section 1's Lakeland would come down to penalty kicks.
For the Hornets, it couldn't have worked out better.
After 110 minutes of scoreless soccer, senior keeper Steven Reiche — undoubtedly Lakeland's MVP this year — came up huge once again. Reiche made two saves and converted a penalty kick as the Hornets edged Goshen, 3-2 (PKs), to advance to Saturday's regional final against Section 4's Maine-Endwell at the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta, NY at 1 p.m.
“That’s Reiche’s 13th shutout of the season,” Lakeland coach Tim Hourahan said. “He’s about the best player in the section. We have all the faith in him.”
Goshen (14-4-1) shot first during penalties and scored, but Reiche blasted his shot home to equalize after one round of kicks. Landy Manolo Lopez and Gonzalo Prando both scored for Lakeland to take a 3-2 lead after three rounds. Goshen’s second shooter put the ball high and wide. The Gladiators' fourth and fifth shooters both fired to the right, and Reiche came away with a kick save and a punch to send the Hornets into a frenzy.
“Honestly, I could tell that we were going to penalties during overtime,” Reiche said. “I didn’t have a lot of faith in myself during PKs, but my teammates and coaches believed in me and that fueled me to get the job done.”
And Reiche has done a spectacular job during the playoffs, posting three consecutive shutouts in wins over Pelham, Port Chester and now Goshen. He hasn't relinquished a goal in an impressive 270 minutes.
Even though the score line read 0-0 after regulation and overtime, the game was a wide-open affair. Lakeland seemed to have the better run of play through the first half, but Goshen’s counter-attack threatened the Hornets most of the game.
“At halftime, we moved Prando into a more defensive midfield role,” Hourahan said. “(Goshen) was the bigger and faster team, so we wanted to slow that counter down. They were definitely talented.”
Both goalkeepers played well, but weren’t forced to make any dazzling saves. Reiche finished with eight stops during regulation and overtime. Goshen’s Devin Valencia had seven.
“Both teams were looking for free kicks, corners, and long throws late in the game,” Hourahan said. “A goal was going to be hard to get without one of those.”
But Lakeland — which advanced in the state playoffs for the first time ever — managed to get the job done.
“Lakeland’s never been this far before now," Hornets senior captain Sebastian Marquez said. "Coach told us to make a statement. Once we won the section, our focus became a state championship. That’s what we want.”
With Reiche in net, it’s an absolute possibility. Lakeland is now 14-4-3 on the season. The Hornets are 13-0 when they score first.
“We play a tough, defensive style," Hourahan said. "The bottom line is we’re one of the last eight teams left in the state. There’s a lot of character and leadership on this team.”
Check back for photos and highlights from this game.
Email John Malone at email@example.com | Follow him on Twitter: @MSGV_Malone