Jericho dances way to LI 'A' title
The Jericho and East Hampton boys soccer teams know each other well. The Jayhawks defeated the Bonackers in last year's Long Island Championship and the teams played to a 1-1 tie earlier this year.
Jericho coach Dani Braga played with East Hampton coach Rich King on a Long Island premier league team when they were teenagers.
In their third meeting in two years, the Jayhawks (18-1-1) earned a 2-0 victory to win their second straight Long Island Class A Championship Wednesday. Senior goalie Ari Lewis made six saves for his 15th shutout of the year and third of the postseason.
"It feels good, but we're looking farther," Braga said. "Our first goal over this summer was to repeat as state champs. We feel we have the team and the talent and the depth to do it. As much as this victory is sweet, it's not the end for us."
Jericho opened the scoring in the 12th minute when senior Harrison Rieber scored off a through ball from junior Michael Blumberg. With the 1-0 lead, the Jayhawks were able to focus on defense.
"The pressure was lifted off our shoulders once we went up 1-0 because we know we're strongest when we score first," Rieber said.
Jericho's defense, led by Jack Roberts and Brian Lowenstein, limited the Bonackers' shot attempts.
"They're just a tough defense-oriented team," King said. "They have great depth and experience. They have a bunch of guys that they rotate in and there's no drop-off in their play."
Jericho took a 2-0 lead into halftime when senior Zach Cohen scored off a cross from freshman Barry Sharifi. The goalkeeper came out to challenge Sharifi, but he was able to get past him and send the ball over to Cohen who fired into an empty net.
The Bonackers came out more aggressive in the second half, but Jericho's midfield, led by Rieber and Blumberg, did a strong job disrupting their passes and winning balls in the air.
"We're very good at reading their offense, so we jumped the passing lanes and intercepted their passes," Rieber said.
The Jayhawks will play in the state semifinals against Williamsville East High School of Section VI on Saturday at 8:30 a.m. at Middletown High School. The opportunity to repeat as state champions is something the players have been aiming for all year.
"It's an unbelievable experience to win it once, but to have the chance to win it twice is incredible," Lewis said. "We just want to try to make history and be the best team in the state again."