Making program history by qualifying for the city soccer semifinals would typically be a cause for joy, and ultimately it was. After the final whistle sounded on Francis Lewis’ 2-0 win over Canarsie, the Patriots’ players hugged and jumped for joy and had to be reminded by head coach Roger Sarmuksnis to line up for post game handshakes.
But for much of Lewis’ victory in Tuesday’s city quarterfinals, played at John Adams High School, feelings were on the painful side. The Patriots racked up more than a dozen solid chances on goal, and for more than a full half, they had nothing to show for it. Sarmuksnis stood dumbfounded as Karin Backert’s shot was caught under the collapsed legs of the opposing goalkeeper, held his tongue as Ingrid Diosa fell before she could shoot from close range.
Laura Marmolejo finally broke through early in the second half, after Backert received a long ball near the corner of the box and found her teammate unguarded. Marmolejo was in a one-on-one with the keeper, and she drilled one into the lower left corner. 1-0 Patriots.
“First my foot curved a little, and I thought I was going to trip,” Marmolejo said afterward. Nearly another missed chance, perhaps.
Sarmuksnis and those behind him on the bench desperately wanted to see another goal. For the next half hour, however, the only insurance they had was of a very different variety. Sarmuksnis had installed a small tent over the Francis Lewis bench. It was intended to block the sun, but it ended up keeping his players dry during a halftime downpour that soaked most everyone else.
The Patriots finally got their wish in the final minutes, when Gena Koutsounadis broke through the Canarsie defense and put the game away with an emphatic strike. The sighs of relief she produced were larger than usual, because the goal came just minutes after Canarsie almost knotted the score at one.
Most of the Brooklynites’ offense appeared in the form of mid-range free kicks, and this one nearly deflated Francis Lewis. From beyond the right corner of the box, it bounced off the crossbar and was cleared just in time.
After the game, Sarmuksnis said he considered his team fortunate.
“You definitely know that they’re going to get one or two opportunities [to score],” he said. “You need to get just one opportunity – that’s all it takes in soccer.”
Lewis, regular season champions of the Queens ‘A-IV’ division, will face either Beacon or Petrides in the city semifinals on Thursday, June 4.