By PAUL GOTHAM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The McQuaid Jesuit Knights returned home Sunday night to a police escort, honking horns and the cheers of family and friends. The final bus ride together took four-plus hours to deliver the 2017 NYSPHSAA Class AA championship plaque from Middletown, N.Y. to South Clinton Avenue.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Alex Reale standing beneath the glow of an overhead light in the school parking lot. “Knowing the season’s over it’s sad, but to end it on this note you can’t ask for anything better.”
With a resounding 6-0 win over Half Hollow Hills West (XI) in the state championship game earlier in the day, McQuaid sealed the first such crown in program history and the first AA title for a Section V team since Penfield accomplished the feat in 2004.
The Jesuit Knights did it with 10 seniors in the starting lineup and 20 overall on the team’s roster of 31.
“It feels amazing,” senior sweeper Quinn Minich said. “To think this is our last game for all 20 of us ever. To win like that. It’s truly amazing.”
“We just had the momentum going in from yesterday with the overtime win,” Minich said referring to McQuaid’s 1-0 victory over Ithaca (IV) in Saturday’s semifinal. “We just knew that this was our last game and that we needed to do anything possible. We moved the ball really well, everything. It was perfect.”
Adriano Margiotta tallied twice including the second goal in a flurry when McQuaid found the back of the net twice in less than a minute midway through the first half.
McQuaid celebration. pic.twitter.com/Nk00eGZ0rO
— Paul Gotham (@PickinSplinters) November 13, 2017
“It was our preparation,” Margiotta said of the win. “We really keyed in on this game knowing that no matter what it was the end. We worked all season to get to this last day. This last day was really what the season was for. That’s something that is really special.”
The senior midfielder added his team-leading 15th assist early in the second half.
“We were just trying to close out the game as early as we could. It’s incredible that we were able to do it so well and score so often. We definitely didn’t expect it to be like that.”
Senior midfielder Nick Pierleoni couldn’t have written the script any better. A student at the school since seventh grade, Pierleoni played with Empire United Soccer Academy the past three seasons before deciding to join his classmates on the pitch for the final year.
“This is perfect,” he said. “This is just as you imagined it, just the way you dream it up. It really could not have worked out any better.
“We really came out with the mindset of we’ll do anything to win this game. Everything just clicked. Every guy had a good game. Everyone on the field did their job. We just beat them to it in every way we could.”
Having beaten Gates-Chili 6-0 in the Section V quarter-finals, McQuaid put bookends on a post-season ledger which included narrow wins over Webster Thomas (1-0 in the Section V semi-finals), Hilton (2-1 Section V Class AA final), Clarence (VI/1-0 Far West Regional) and Ithaca (IV/1-0 in Saturday’s state semifinal).
On Sunday the Knights, which outscored opponents 80-5 in the regular season, rediscovered their offense.
“Today we finished our chances really well,” Reale noted. “When we finished, we didn’t have any mental lapses. We had no mental letdown. We had no complacency. We just kept pushing.
“We’re always prepared for a close game. All the games leading up the finals have been close, but we really came through. We just kept pushing hard.”
No individual effort was more evident on the offensive end than that of Dominic Duncan. The senior attacker with a team-high 16 markers coming into the tilt had gone eight games without finding the back of the net.
Duncan hit the post in Saturday’s win and early in Sunday’s contest came away without scoring on a breakaway. Moments later, he jumpstarted the offense and scored his second goal of the day before halftime.
“I’m a goal scorer, and I’ve been coming up short on my job lately,” Duncan said. “I didn’t want to let my team down. I wanted to make my team proud.”
The shutout was the 18th this season for McQuaid. Senior goalkeeper Tommy Gallina allowed just two goals this season – both on penalty kicks. Gallina, who made a save on a point blank attempt early in the first half was named the game Most Valuable Player.