Tough ending for East Meadow


Both teams are deemed co-champions since the Nassau Class AA girls’ soccer final Oct. 30 was decided on penalty kicks, but it’s an extremely small consolation prize in the eyes of the East Meadow Lady Jets.

Syosset captured its first-ever county title after tying the game with 1:22 remaining in regulation time and converting 5 of 7 penalty kicks, with Kendall Halpern providing both the final save and winning shot before a spirited crowd at Cold Spring Harbor. Halpern, a field player, was used as the goalkeeper during PKs and made four saves before sending the fifth-seeded Lady Braves to the Long Island championship game against Smithtown West with a low, hard shot.

“We’ve been working on PKs throughout the playoffs and there’s a lot of pressure,” East Meadow coach Adam Hananel said. “It’s a tough ending. The girls were more like a family than a team. It hurts, but that shows how much they cared.”

The No. 2-seeded Lady Jets (12-3-3) beat Syosset (8-6-2) twice during the regular season and came painfully close to a third 1-0 victory. After nearly 75 minutes of scoreless play, senior Kayla Leary headed in a corner kick from junior Alyssa Vega with 5:17 left. But Syosset continued to apply pressure and Avani Brant got the equalizer off a scramble in the box following a crossing pass from Bella Romano.

“It all happened kind of quick and the ball ended up at the feet of their only player who could’ve put it in,” Hananel said.

Halpern set the tone in penalty kicks by stopping the first shot she saw off the foot of counterpart Stephanie Sparkowski. East Meadow’s junior standout keeper, who provided some of the best scoring opportunities of the night off free kicks, was equal to the task with a pair of dynamic diving saves.

In order, sophomore Scarlett Espinosa, Vega, sophomore Myla McLeod and senior Mary Boyle converted their PKs for East Meadow. In addition to Halpern, Sasha Chirinkin, Camryn Miller, Brandt, Daniela Romano also scored for Syosset.

Most of the 30 minutes of overtime was played between the 20s, with scoring threats few and far between. Syosset goalkeeper Eve Waldhauser made three saves in each half and had a couple of tense moments within the first nine minutes of the second half thanks to Sparkowski’s leg. She boomed two long free kicks that appeared to have eyes for the back of the net. One sailed over the crossbar, the other Waldhauser got her hands on and the rebound was cleared.

Sparkowski, working behind a defense led by Leary, Espinosa, Boyle and senior Rachel Rose, recorded four saves over 110 minutes of standard play.

East Meadow’s road to the title game included a 6-0 quarterfinal win over Hicksville and a 2-1 decision over Baldwin in the semifinals. McLeod scored four times against Hicksville, while Leary had goals in both games.

“We had a tight-knit group from top to bottom,” Hananel said.