DePaul heading for Passaic County final

Alyssa Winkler's last-second, first-half corner kick turned into the goal that gave DePaul some breathing room in a 4-1 win over Lakeland in the semfinals of the Passaic County Tournament.

WAYNE – Through the first 30-plus minutes of its Passaic County semifinal against Lakeland, there was plenty of concern for the DePaul girls soccer team. Although they had an edge in terms of possession, it translated into all of one shot on net. With the half winding down the Spartans became more direct and upped the hustle all the way until the last second of the half. That last second proved to be the backbreaking moment in the game.

With just a couple of ticks remaining, Alyssa Winkler sped over to get off a corner kick. Haley Perez got enough of her foot on a bicycle kick to score with the final touch of the half and give second-seeded DePaul a two-goal lead, which evolved into a 4-1 win over third-seeded Lakeland and a berth in the Passaic County final.

“We needed to create more chances and after the first goal we settled down,” said Winkler. “Things weren’t going our way in the first half but we didn’t panic. Once we started to play more calmly and not rush anything good things started to happen.”

DePaul set the tone in the midfield right from the opening whistle, but struggled to get off quality shots in Lakeland’s defensive third of the field. Senior captains Emma Gibson and Nora McDonagh did everything they could to keep the Spartans’ attack at bay. They were able to hold them off for the first half-hour before another Winkler corner kick led the first goal of the game. Winkler bent the kick along the six-yard box and it got pinballed around before Jamie Roberts finished at the back post with 8:36 to go in the half for a 1-0 DePaul lead.

Rylee Johnson scored Lakeland's goal.

It looked like that is the way the score would stay going into the second half before the Spartans earned that last-ditch corner. Winkler raced all the way from her holding defensive midfield position to line up the kick, which she took with eight seconds remaining. The ball went towards the far post before getting headed back towards the near post. Perez had her back to the goal and the only play for the bouncing ball in front of her was a bicycle kick. She did not hit the ball cleanly but got enough of it for it to cross the goal line as the final buzzer sounded. After a brief discussion, the goal stood and the Spartans had a 2-0 halftime lead.

“That second goal with a second left really hurt us and today we just didn’t recover,” said Lakeland head coach Louise Marlowe. “It’s a tough experience but hopefully we’ll learn something through what went on today and grow from it.”

Any hopes of a Lakeland comeback were quickly dashed by a fantastic individual effort from Bryana Pelayo. She blocked a clearing attempt, settled a bouncing ball then used the outside of her right foot to bend a shot into the side netting just 1:20 into the second half to make it 3-0.

Briyana Pelayo scored a goal for DePaul, which will play Wayne Valley for the county championship on Saturday.

Madison Miniutti made five saves in the win for DePaul (12-1). Lakeland (8-6-1) averted a shutout with a second-half goal from Rylee Johnson.

The Spartans now turn their attention to the Passaic County final next Saturday. There they will take on top-seeded Wayne Valley at Clifton Stadium with a 1:00 P.M. start. While the Spartans were happy with the win, they were far from satisfied. That satisfaction will only come if they can hoist the trophy as Passaic County champions.

“We really want that county championship and now we’re one game away,” said DePaul senior center midfielder Victoria Carnevale, who is second on the team with 11 goals. “We lost to Lakeland my sophomore year in the counties and we looked at this like a revenge game. It feels great to win but we have to put it behind us. We’re the underdog going into that game but we’re confident that we can play our best and we want to prove people wrong who doubted we could win the county tournament.”