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Arlington High School has a long and storied soccer tradition. The Admirals won three state championships under legendary coach Gary Montalto, who retired two years ago, as well as 14 Section 1 titles.
But that was boys’ soccer.
Now the girls’ soccer program is making its own name on the pitch.
Shannon Palmer scored midway through the first half and Allie Pushkarsh clinched it late, and the Admirals shut out Washingtonville, 2-0, on Saturday in a New York State Class AA quarterfinal game at Yorktown High School to earn its first-ever trip to the Final Four.
“I can’t believe this. I can’t believe this,” Pushkarsh kept saying. “The first Arlington girls team to go to the Final Four? I can’t believe it.”
“This is exciting, very exciting, for these girls,” Arlington coach Kieran McIlvenny said. “They’ve worked extremely hard for this.”
Section 1 champion Arlington, now 18-2-1, will play Section 2 champ Bethlehem on Saturday in a semifinal game at SUNY Cortland. Bethlehem was a 2-0 winner over Liverpool in another state quarterfinal on Saturday. The winner plays for the state championship on Sunday.
Washingtonville, the champions out of Section 9, finish the season at 18-2.
This was a matchup of the No. 3 (Washingtonville) and No. 6 (Arlington) ranked teams in the state, but instead of starting at 4 p.m. under the sun – however fading it might have been – the two schools didn’t kick off until 65 minutes later under the lights on a cold night, following an epic, double-overtime Class A state quarterfinal game between Somers and Cornwall.
And it appeared to affect the Admirals more than it did the Wizards, who dominated the first 12-15 minutes of the game. Arlington has a set, very specific, pregame warm-up that was clearly thrown out of whack.
“It definitely affected us,” Pushkarsh said. “We were on the bus, we were warm, we came out to warm up, and then as we realized the other game was going into overtime and then double overtime, we had to slow everything down. We even stopped at one point.”
But once they got their bearings, the Admirals attacked. It was Pushkarsh who set up the first goal, slicing a beautiful ball between two Wizard defenders that Palmer ran onto it and slid past the goalie for a 1-0 lead midway through the first half.
It stayed that way for the entire game, until Pushkarsh took advantage of a misplay by a Washingtonville defender and banged away until rolling one into the net for a 2-0 with 3:19 to play.
“At that point,” Pushkarsh said, “I realized we were going to states.”
In between, Arlington played brilliant defense. Goalkeeper Kristin Skonieczny earned the shutout thanks to stellar work in front of her by Megan Burke, Sarah Verdis, Katie Curran, Alexa Wandy, and Ciara McIlvenny. Midfielder Chelsea Brophy also did solid work shifting back and forth between offense and defense.
“I can’t even begin to talk about how great they all were today,” McIlvenny said. “Our defense is a big reason why we’re going to states.”
Follow Rich Thomaselli on Twitter @RPTSPORTS