Alzugaray lifts Cross to state crown

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After anchoring a rock-solid Holy Cross defense, the senior leapt high in the air to head in Tamer Mohammed's corner kick to lift the Knights to a 1-0 overtime win over Monsignor Farrell at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point. It was the second consecutive state title for Paul Gilvary's Knights.

"He is amazing in the air, he does a great job with heading the ball defensively, but he is remarkable on corner kicks," Gilvary said. "He has great timing to be able to finish on balls like that."

The state championship win caps an unbelievable eight-day stretch for Holy Cross, which defeated Farrell (19-3-1) in the city semifinals in a penalty kick shootout two Saturdays ago. The Knights followed with a 2-1 win over Queens rival Molloy in the city finals and then defeated Chaminade in another penalty kick shootout in the state semifinals Friday.

"That was the most amazing week I've been a part of in my 19 years of coaching," Gilvary said. "These are not average high school kids. They have a tremendous will to win."

Holy Cross (18-4-1) controlled most of the play and had more dangerous scoring chances, but they could not find the back of the net through 80 minutes of regulation and another 16 minutes of overtime before Alzugaray struck.

Alzugaray, who struck the post with a header off another corner in the 63rd minute, snuck inside of the box, avoiding Farrell's Adam Gage. Lions head coach Franko Legovich had stuck Gage on Alzugaray on corner kicks earlier in the game, but instead Scott Vieira picked up the missed assignment.

Mohammed's cross curled into the box and Alzugaray beat Vieira to the ball, lifting it inside the far post in the 96th minute to give Cross the 1-0 lead.

"Adam was suppose to cover him," Legovich said. "If he was there, I think Adam would have headed the ball away."

"I had a chance before and it was the same thing," Alzugaray said. "We work on trying to get me the ball on corners. I just looked for the ball and tried to find my way through."

Gage, one of the most dangerous strikers in the city, was silenced throughout the match thanks to a sturdy Knights defense and the man-marking of junior midfielder Jiva Milenovici, who didn't allow Farrell's play-maker Chris Cuba any open space.

"That was a big factor because Cuba has a great shot and when he has room, he usually gets great balls to Adam," Legovich said. "Whenever Chris had the ball, there was usually three players around him."

"Coach Gilvary told me to stick Cuba," Milenovici said. "He's a great player, I just tried my best and stood right by him."

Gage, who scored 42 goals and had a 17-game scoring streak coming into the game, did manage to get one clear shot on net shortly after Alzugaray's goal when he ran onto a loose ball in the box and fired towards the net from five yards out, but the ball hit Holy Cross junior keeper Robert Lehman square in the jaw and was cleared by the Knights defense.

"It was a perfect ball right to him," Lehman said. "It hit me right in the jaw because I didn't have time to get my hands up."

Lehman, who was a keeper on the Cross junior varsity team as a freshman, started the season as a midfielder/forward but went back in between the pipes following the Knights second consecutive league loss to Molloy on Oct. 12 and went a perfect 9-0 down the stretch.

"He was just outstanding, the defense had so much confidence in him," Gilvary said of Lehman. "We weren't worried about making a mistake, we said as long as we didn't give up a point blank shot, we'd be OK. He was a huge part of this."

Holy Cross 2, Chaminade 1. Alessandro Acquista scored the game-winning penalty kick to lift the Knights to a 2-1 win over the Flyers in the state semifinals at the Long Island Soccer Park in Plainview Friday. Cross edged out Chaminade, 4-2, in the penalty kick round in what was a rematch of last year's state championship match, also won by Cross.

Kostos Karayiannis put Chaminade (17-5-1) ahead in the 13th minute on a penalty kick goal,but Michael Massa tied the score for Cross in the 40th minute when he received a great through ball from Mohammed and blasted the ball inside the far post from 16 yards out.

With the penalty kick round tied at 2, Massa beat Flyers keeper Alexander Ammanda and Lehman stopped Bryan Foero's kick, setting up Acquista for the winning kick. The senior midfielder stepped to the spot and beat Ammanda-who guessed wrong-low to the keeper's right to send the Knights into the state finals for a third consecutive year.

Updated 7:08 pm, October 10, 2011
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