By Five Boro Sports
GARDEN CITY, L.I. — The McClancy boys’ soccer team’s season, fittingly, came down to the play of goalkeeper Peter Pipia. And coach Adrian Caballero wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
“I think I have the best goalkeeper in the league, by far,” Caballero said.
Pipia was great between the pipes – as he was all season – in the CHSAA Class B intersectional championship game against Salesian on Sunday afternoon at Adelphi. The Crusaders were supremely confident going into penalty kicks with the Eagles, after a 1-1 draw through 100 minutes of soccer, with the senior in net.
The keeper allowed only two goals in the first five kicks, but McClancy could only muster a pair of goals itself. The Crusaders fell behind, 2-1, going into the ninth kick and McClancy’s Jaime Lopez missed, meaning Pipia would have to save the last two if his team was going to have a chance to win the city championship.
“Be calm,” the keeper said he thought to himself. “I was trying not to be too nervous.”
He stopped one shot, but after Adrian Formosa’s goal, Pipia could not come up with any more magic against Bronx native Steven Merino, who beat him to his left. The Eagles won their first championship ever and the Crusaders were left to pick up the pieces. After the ball hit the net, Pipia dropped into a sitting position and stared down at the floor.
Essentially, he was out there on an island. He did enough to get his team the victory in penalty kicks, but missing seemed to be contagious to start the shootout. The first six shots came up empty.
“I’ve been doing this a long time and I’ve never seen anything like this,” referee Joe Carone said.
It was that kind of season for McClancy and Pipia. There was never any doubting the Crusaders’ ability, but the 2008 campaign will be marked by an eventful meeting with Bishop Ford on Oct. 10, which they won, 2-1. Pipia left the game, and was rushed to the hospital, with a concussion, courtesy of “dirty, classless soccer” by the Falcons, Caballero said at the time.
Caballero and Gerry O’Riordan, McClancy’s athletic director, were given red cards in the game.
Ford coach Barney Cassidy complained that rowdy McClancy fans were threatening his players, that the Crusaders displayed poor sportsmanship by kicking several balls purposely over the fence. The McClancy players also refused to shake hands with the Bishop Ford players after the game.
The Crusaders, with Pipia back in net, got the last laugh with a 5-1 win Oct. 22. The keeper was knocked around in that game, too, and was nearly trampled again Sunday against Salesian in the 43rd minute when Eagles senior Jimmy Reyes’s knee rammed into his stomach.
“I just lost my breath,” Pipia sad. “I couldn’t breathe but I just wanted to get back into the game.”
He did two minutes later. In the 60th minute, star junior forward Steven Jimenez was carried off with an ankle injury. Only seconds later, Salesian senior forward Joshua Zambado tied the score at 1. Formosa opened scoring in the third minute.
“When one of the best players on the field comes out with a potentially broken ankle, fill in the blank,” Caballero said.
The match was never the same after that. Salesian took control, even though McClancy held strong through regulation and two, 10-minute overtime periods.
“Once they scored the goal, momentum changed,” Caballero said. “Then fatigue set in.”