Upstart Sewanhaka, the No. 13 seed, rolled into last Friday night’s Nassau Class A boys’ soccer first-round playoff matchup with No. 4 South Side riding a hot streak that dated back to when the teams met during the regular season and included an overtime victory over West Hempstead in a play-in game.
But the Indians, unbeaten in their last five since dropping a 4-1 decision to the Cyclones on Oct. 4, couldn’t muster any offense while the hosts got goals from Matt DiLuccio and Jack McKenna for a 2-0 victory at Skelos Sports Complex. Johnny Debenedittis assisted on both scores. Goalkeeper Thomas Germano made four saves for South Side (9-3-3), which advanced to face fifth-seeded Bethpage in the quarterfinals.
“We knew they were coming in here playing pretty well, and I scouted them the other day when they beat West Hempstead,” Cyclones coach Fred Paul said. “We had success the first time we met, and I thought we did some pretty good things tonight.
“What matters most is we’re moving on,” he added. “Now I’ll go get the scouting report on Bethpage and figure out a strategy.”
Sewanhaka (6-5-5) coach Peter Burgess said his team began its turnaround in the second half of the regular-season meeting against the Cyclones, who got two goals from Alessandro Pugliese that day. The Indians had two wins and two ties in their last four conference games, including a 3-0 win over defending county champion Jericho. “We started to jell and gained a lot of confidence by beating Jericho,” Burgess said. “We needed every point we got to make the playoffs. A loss in our last [conference] game and we were out.”
South Side came out buzzing and created two golden scoring opportunities in the first 10 minutes. Chuck Leone, who seemed a step ahead of everyone all night, drilled a direct kick off the crossbar in the 6th minute and then had a pass redirected by Andrew Whelan that appeared destined for the back of the net until Indians keeper Mustafa Bayrum made a lunging save on the fly.
DiLuccio snapped a scoreless tie in the 17th minute when his drive from 30 yards out eluded Bayrum. The Indians turned up the pressure in the second half, but a South Side defense led by Brian Hurwitz, Jacob Adler, Brian McKeon and Will Murray stood its ground as Germano earned his third consecutive shutout.
Leone initiated the insurance goal that came with 13:48 remaining. Off a restart, he drove the ball into the box where Debenedittis tapped it to a wide-open McKenna, who popped in his sixth goal of the season. “I didn’t relax until we got the second goal,” Paul said.
Sewanhaka beat Plainedge, 1-0, in the conference finale on a goal by Rasheed Bryan, to qualify for postseason play and then eliminated West Hempstead, 2-1, with two minutes left in OT on a goal by Luis Chaverra. “We set goals for the season and exceeded them,” Burgess said.