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High school boys soccer: IHC advances to state semifinals

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LIVERPOOL — With its latest postseason triumph, Immaculate Heart Central continues to venture where no boys soccer team from the school has gone before.

The Cavaliers took another big step in the state playoffs as sophomore Jake Fusilli scored a goal in the first half and junior goalkeeper Jarrod Smith posted yet another shutout in a 1-0 victory over Section 4 champion Margaretville in a Class D state regional final on Saturday at Liverpool High School.

IHC (16-3-1) now heads to the state final four for the first time in program history.

“This is an honor, it really is,” senior co-captain Pat Gefell said. “We’ve never been this far before and hopefully this is just a stepping stone to even better things.”

The Cavaliers, who are ranked fourth in the state in Class D, move on to face Section 5 champion Jasper-Troupsburg (16-3-1) in a state semifinal at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Middletown High School.

“We have wanted it since we were young,” said Matt Guyette, also a senior co-captain. “Everyone wants it.”

“This is a historical moment for them,” IHC coach Mary Guyette said. “That’s awesome and it’s a milestone — it’s an unforgettable moment on this journey that we’re on together.”

Smith finished with 11 saves for IHC, which has shut out its past three opponents, including a 2-0 win over Poland last Friday to claim its first Section 3 title in boys soccer in a quarter of a century.

“We were confident, but at the same time we were really nervous,” Fusilli said. “We had a lot of chances to finish, but we just weren’t putting it in the net. And they had some good chances, but our goalkeeper had a really good game again and saved us a couple times.”

Just moments after Matt Guyette drilled the ball off the crossbar. Fusilli tallied the only goal the Cavaliers would need in the 26th minute, with senior Austin Renzi assisting.

Renzi took a pass from senior Jude Fusilli and sent a nifty aerial crossing pass right to Jake Fusilli, who headed the ball over goalie Marvin Morales with 14 minutes, 19 seconds remaining in the first half.

“I saw open space and I went there,” Jake Fusilli said. “He just gave it to me — it was a perfect pass right to my head and I just finished it.”

“That was a great goal and that proved to be the game winner,” Mary Guyette said. “He’s worked so hard this season.”

IHC outlasted the Bobcats the rest of the way. IHC carried the play throughout the game, but Margaretville (18-1) stayed within striking distance until the finish.

“It was a little nerve-wracking,” Mary Guyette said. “ ... Even though you may totally dominate a game, you’ve got to finish the opoortunities that you’ve got — you can’t let teams hang with you at this time of the season.”

Smith would deny a rush by Margaretville’s Kyle Short in the final seconds of the first half and was sharp over the final 40 minutes.

The Cavaliers continued to have the better of the play and, when the Bobcats did get pressure, Smith made a stop on Roberto Sarabia with 10 minutes left and later came out far from his goal to take the ball away from Sarabia with 2:30 left.

IHC’s defense was resolute until the end as Short’s throw-in with under a minute to play was headed away by junior JP McClusky. Smith made a save on a direct kick by Sarabia with 12 seconds remaining.

“I knew they had some very players that could play, there’s no question about it and we had a to do a good job for marking those players,” Mary Guyette said. “And for the most part, we did go a good job. But they made it a little more exciting than I wanted it to be at the end of the game. They were pushing forward, pushing hard and I was just happy we were able to clear some balls out and hang on, really.”

The Cavaliers came close to adding to their lead in the second half as Chris Rowland sent a corner kick in to Jude Fusilli, but Morales (13 saves) made the stop with 15:30 left.

IHC won its fifth consecutive postseason game and, along with its third straight shutout, has allowed only three goals in the playoffs, while scoring 11 goals.

“Jarrod Smith played great in goal today and didn’t let anything by him,” said Gefell, who leads the Cavaliers’ defense from his sweeper position. “And Jason Reape and Jared Pignone both played exceptionally well on the outside for us defensively. We’ve had some great games in the back which have allowed us to get these shutouts.”

IHC last reached state tournament play when it won its previous Section 3 title in 1988, just a year after the program was founded.

“These boys have been playing together since they were young and playing for a long time,” Mary Guyette said. “We’ve got 10 seniors on the team, they’re here and they know what they want.”

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