Brianna Passaro was done with almosts.
The St. Anthony’s junior had a handful of chances on Wednesday afternoon, but continued to come up just short, unable to get her squad on the board. That changed in the waning minutes of regulation however, as Passaro once again found the ball at her feet.
And, that time, she made sure it found the back of the net.
Passaro lifted the Friars to a 2-0 victory over Sacred Heart, connecting on the go-ahead goal in the 63rd minute as her squad wrapped up a perfect regular season.
“I was so determined, especially because the last three shots I had hit the crossbar and the post,” said Passaro, who also scored the lone goal in the first regular-season matchup against the Spartans. “I was so close, I just knew I had to score.”
The squads exchanged offensive chances in the first half, but neither team could get the edge, going into the break knotted at zero-all.
St. Anthony’s, ranked No. 8 in the Tri-State by News 12 Varsity, huddled up on the sideline at halftime and knew something had to change – quickly.
“We kind of changed our formation a little bit, tweaked a few players and moved them around, just based upon how we were playing and how Sacred Heart was playing,” Friars coach Sue Alber said. “I think that really changed the game and towards the last 20 minutes there were just individual players who stepped up another 110 percent.”
The Friars brought pressure from every angle in the second half, controlling possession and notching a handful of prime looks at the net. Sacred Heart's Sara Micheli was a wall in net, though, finishing the game with five saves and effectively frustrating the St. Anthony’s front line.
That all changed when Passaro found an extra bit of determination.
The forward, once again, found herself in front of the net, but, this time, saw a bit of extra space on the field and once she made her move she knew her shot would be the difference-maker.
“The defenders were standing farther apart and when the ball came in I knew I could get it in between them,” Passaro said. “[Micheli] stepped out, so in order to get the ball into the net, I just knew I had to slide it in low and I’d get it into the corner.”
Passaro’s goal gave the Friars (13-0) a bit of late-game confidence, but it was St. Anthony’s defense that held strong down the stretch.
Sacred Heart (11-3) had chances late, including a pair of free kicks in the final 15 minutes of play and the Friars never wavered.
The back line – which gave up just three goals during the regular season – locked in as the minutes ticked down, blocking shots and allowing up only two shots on net.
“They’re reading the game extremely well,” Alber said. “They’ve got a lot of heart, a lot of bite and [goalie Vanessa Cole’s] behind them cheering them on the entire time. I’m very proud of the team and the back four today.”
St. Anthony’s padded its lead with just over four minutes to play, as Sam Adams found Gianna Russo directly in front of the net.
The Friars will celebrate this one for a day or two, but after coming up short of a title last season, St. Anthony’s has its sights on getting back to the top. It’s a brand-new season and almost certainly won’t cut it there.
“We have a lot of confidence going into the playoffs,” Alber said. “In the end it comes down to the team that wants it more on the day and hopefully that’s us.”