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Friday, May 2, 2014

Falcon's Nest Notes: Heady Play Lifts Varsity Girls Soccer; Keeps Playoff Hopes Alive

Celia Tawil looks to create an open shooting lane
With the season on the line, and the clock ticking away, the Flatbush Varsity Girls Soccer team danced away from a loss with one “heads up” play from one of its captains to avoid a loss that would have ended the team’s playoff hopes. Playing to a scoreless overtime period, the Falcons drew 4-4 with the visiting Hurricanes from HANC and kept alive their playoff chances.

From the opening whistle, the Falcons appeared to be in control, dictating play and maintaining the lion’s share of time of possession. But for all that control, the Flatbush girls’ offense was stymied through the majority of the opening period. In fact, if there were points awarded for the ability to connect a soccer ball with a two-inch wide metal bar, the Falcons would have had a 3-goal edge in the first half alone (and a 6-1 advantage over the course of the game). But the name of the game is to put the ball between those posts, not on them. In the first half alone, Senior Co-Captain Celia Tawil hit the post not once, but twice and Senior Jackie Baum found the bar as well.

While Flatbush could not get one past the HANC defense, neither could HANC penetrate the Falcon goal either. Defenders Lorraine Shamie and Co-Captain Julie Mizrahi expertly cleared almost every challenge, and what got past them was easily handled by starting goalie Sara Rezak. But players cannot play every minute of the game. Soccer is just too physically demanding, and it is a “team” game. With the coaches initiating a switch of the Flatbush defensive personnel, the Hurricanes slipped past the defense and Rezak was faced with a nearly indefensible two-on-none situation. Rezak had to commit, and HANC slipped the ball just past her outstretched arm. HANC was up 1-0, and the Falcons were stunned!

A few minutes later Flatbush equalized when Mizrahi, back on defense late in the period, lofted a high pass from behind mid-court that hit about 15 feet in front of the goal and bounced high over the HANC goalie’s head. She was caught not far enough out of goal to take the ball on the short hop and not far back enough to make an easy save. The ball floated over her outstretched hands and landed softly over the goal line and in the net. The game was again even, 1-1. But it wouldn’t last long. With the clock winding down on the first period, a HANC player let fly with a blast from the point directly on goal just above head height. A slight lapse in focus allowed the ball to slip through Rezak’s gloves, giving HANC back it’s one-goal lead.
Helen Menashe moves around a HANC defender
Period two brought a change in goal for Flatbush, as Michelle Anzaroot took her turn in the net, but there was no change in the score. Flatbush still carried the majority of offensive play, but just could not connect on goal. The teams went to halftime with the score still tilted in favor of the Hurricanes, 2-1.

Trailing at the start of the second half, you could see the tension building amongst the Flatbush girls as the frustration of not capitalizing on their scoring chances began to weigh heavily. But early in, Co-Captain Diane Azrak netted the equalizer, guiding the ball past the HANC goalie on a shot from about 10 feet out. The Falcons’ spirits were lifted with the Azrak goal, and again they carried the majority of the play. Then, early on in the final period, after peppering the HANC goal all night to no avail, Celia Tawil finally broke through for a score. With a mighty blast from 15 feet in front of the goal, her pent up frustration on the night erupted in elation as she gave the Falcons their first lead of the game!

But the Hurricanes were nothing if not opportune on the night. With the ball deep in the corner of the Flatbush end, HANC again slipped behind the defense and managed to find a smidgen of space between Anzaroot and the corner of the goal, just squeaking the ball by her and knotting the game at three goals apiece.

Next came what may be the most controversial play of the season. Having sustained an injury to her knee earlier in the game, Marielle Salem had been on the sidelines. But midway through the fourth quarter, she declared the knee as good to go, and the coached inserted her back into the game on defense. One minute in, Salem tried to make a lateral cut and the knee immediately gave way and she fell to the floor. The coaches called for a time-out, but with HANC possessing the ball Salem mustered all her energy to get up and try to defend even though it was clear that while she could stand she certainly could not move from her spot. As a result, HANC easily moved past her and scored the ball and regained the lead. The coaches immediately appealed the goal stating they called for – and should have been granted – an injury time out. But the official countered that while Salem was clearly injured, her ability to stand up meant she was not in “imminent danger” and that play was correctly allowed to continue as the other team possessed the ball at the time.
Celia Tawil gets her head on the ball - foreshadowing her late-game heroics
With the quarter now nearly half-way gone, the Falcons grew despondent, watching their season slowly slip away. Yet the game was not yet over. Looking for a change, the coaches decided to move Defender Julie Mizrahi to offense to team with Celia Tawil and use a defensive rotation of Shamie, Azrak and Julie Levy to work to deny HANC the rest of the way. The switch looked to pay dividends as Mizrahi and Tawil dominated the ball, but again just could not get their shots past the Hurricane goalie. The minutes continued to tick away. Nevertheless, the Falcons kept the pressure on, hoping for that one big break to present itself. And present itself it did! With only a minute left in regulation, Anzaroot made a routine save and lofted a pass towards the HANC goal. The ball bounced high in the air, and Celia Tawil circled under it. With the ball kicking up towards the goal and the goalie approaching to pluck the ball out of the air, Tawil jumped with her head extended. Her head connected with the ball and sent it over the HANC goalie’s hands and into the back of the net, a miraculous score for the Falcons! The teams regrouped for one final push in the last minute to break the tie, but the buzzer sounded, and the score was even at four goals each after four periods of play.

Re-energized, the Falcons went back out for a five-minute golden goal overtime period (meaning that the first team to score would win the game). With both teams pressing on offense and settling back on defense, neither team could muster a great scoring opportunity. The seconds ticked away, and after five minutes passed, the score was final. HANC and Flatbush had played to a 4-4 tie. The fact that Flatbush did not lose the game preserves their playoff hopes.
Final Score in Overtime: Flatbush 4 - HANC 4
The team now readies for its final game of the regular season, a home match against the Stars of North Shore Hebrew Academy on Motzei Yom Ha’atzma’ut, Tuesday, 5/6. It is very simple now. Win, and you’re in (the playoffs)! One game for all the marbles; come see your Falcons keep their season going!

Nest Notes:
The JV girls travelled to Paramus, NJ on Tuesday to take on Frisch. The team played well, with Phyllis Hadar enjoying a strong game, but fell to the host Cougars by a score of 4-2. The JV girls will play their final game of the season on Tuesday, 5/6, when they host North Shore in the first game of a JV/Varsity doubleheader at 7:00 pm. The Varsity game will begin approximately 15 minutes after the completion of the JV game.