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With two of their best players on the sidelines after suffering injuries, the Somers Tuskers knew they needed someone to step up to pull off a win over Section 9’s Cornwall in the NYS Class A regional finals.
Fortunately for the Tuskers, senior Melanie Anes was ready for her opportunity.
The senior forward scored the golden goal in sudden-death overtime to propel Somers to a 2-1 win over Cornwall on Saturday at Yorktown High School.
“All year long we’ve talked about people stepping up,” Somers coach Keenan Deegan said. “We’ve had a lot of injuries, especially the last four weeks. At one time, we had six or seven starters down and we kept on ticking. It’s not something we haven’t done before. I’m so proud that they didn’t let the injuries bring them down.”
Anes was assisted by junior Julia Djokic, who sent in a picture perfect pass. Her goal came with 16 seconds left in the third overtime.
“I saw Julia coming down and I was screaming for the ball because I saw it happening in slow motion,” Anes said. “She gave me a perfect ball and I just tried to get it right corner. I was hoping to God it was going to go in. It curved in perfectly.”
Both Anes and Djokic came in off the bench after the injuries piled up for the Tuskers (19-1-1).
“Melanie doesn’t usually get that much playing time,” said senior goalkeeper Beth Coppolecchia, who made 13 saves. “She comes in here and scores for us – that’s just amazing. She’s been working so hard at practice to get into the game.”
“To come off the bench in a pressure cooker like this with under two minutes to go and rocket it to the goal, that’s outstanding,” Deegan said of Anes. “It’s nothing that we don’t train for. You play to the last minute.”
Star senior Melissa Menta was forced to leave the game in the first half with a knee injury. Top striker Melissa Rodriguez suffered an ankle injury right before halftime and had the wind knocked out of her in the third overtime after getting tangled up with a Cornwall player.
But the Tuskers overcame adversity time and again.
“We have a lot of girls on this team that have scored all season,” Anes said. “We all have a lot of support from Menta, M-Rod (Rodriguez), and everyone. We all have mutual respect for each other. It’s easier for everyone to succeed.”
Somers, which won its first Section 1 title since 2006 with a victory over John Jay-Cross River last weekend, took an early 1-0 lead when Bridget Reilly scored off an assist by Rodriguez on a corner kick.
Cornwall tied it up at 1-1 midway through the first half when Lexi Modlinski booted home a corner that went off the hands of a diving Coppolecchia. Andrea Mancuso notched the assist.
After giving up the lead on top of losing a key player in Menta to injury, the Tuskers had to regroup at halftime.
“We had to pump ourselves up a little bit,” Coppolecchia said. “We lost a great player (Menta) and then another one later (Rodriguez). We just said we have to fill in for them. We have three people that are on the bench that stepped up.”
When Menta went out with an injury in the first half, Deegan believes that the Tuskers were out of sync for a bit, which led to the Cornwall goal.
“She’s really like a sparkplug out there and drives us energy wise,” said Deegan, who gave credit to Jessica Fanelli and Alexa Baiano for solid defensive efforts.
Somers will square off with Burnt Hills (Section 2) in the Class A state semifinals on Saturday, November 19 at Tompkins-Cortland Community College at 1:30 p.m.
“That’s been our ultimate goal, to get to the final four,” Coppolecchia said. “Now we have to just go and finish up there.”
Follow Rob DiAntonio on Twitter @MSGV_RJD