Riverdale went through the emotional wringer Friday after winning the NYSAIS state boys soccer semifinals over Poly Prep. It took 80 minutes of regulation, plus two 10-minute overtimes and two 5-minute golden goal overtimes until midfielder Justin Miller hit the deciding penalty kick to send the Falcons back to the final.
Yet Riverdale still had enough energy Sunday with goals scored by senior Sam Barovick and Julian Burden to capture its second straight NYSAIS championship with a 2-0 victory over UNIS at Manhattanville College.
“First thing I thought about is if we were going to be emotionally spent or hung over from that game and see the remnants of the fatigue on championship Sunday," said Riverdale coach Andrew FitzGerald.
It was not only an intense semifinal encounter, but the Falcons also had injuries to co-captains Andrew Cohen, who suffered torn cartilage a broken nose and an quad contusion for Sean Dobens. Yet FitzGerald witnessed the same confidence his team has taken on the field in the last half of their season by capping off a title campaign with eight straight victories.
Dobens and Cohen would be cleared to play against No. 5 seed UNIS, who upended top-seed Hackley in the semifinals also by penalty kicks. Riverdale (14-3-1), ranked No. 5 in New York City by MSG Varsity, slowed down the UNIS attack and swung the momentum in their direction in the 19th minute of the first half.
Ryan Friedsam was taken down on a late challenge by the UNIS goalkeeper inside the 18-yard box and Falcons defender Sam Barovick converted the penalty kick to give his team 1-0 advantage. Barovick, not normally known a scorer, would tally a goal in the last two games of his high school career.
The Falcons incorporated some younger players into the lineup and freshman Julian Burden would make a name for himself in Sundays final. Burden, who scored a game-winning goal in a regular season victory over Poly Prep, had missed a clear scoring chance just 12 yards from the net with 12 minutes in regulation.
FitzGerald would take Burden out of the game but gave words of his encouragement to his young player to score when he reappeared on the field. Burden was inserted back into the contest and made a quick impact with an impressive 35-yard half volley into the far post of the net to give Riverdale a 2-0 lead with less than five minutes left in the second half.
Riverdale have learned how to win close games as FitzGerald mentioned his team has won eight contests this season by a slim one-goal margin. It’s been one of the strong points this season amongst the many positives Riverdale has achieved in becoming back-to-back state champions.
“I think the constant theme was mental fortitude. We earned our victories but we also earned our losses and learned from them so that was important,” FitzGerald said. “We understood what every team had to offer.”