FARMINGDALE — They celebrated. They cried. They posed for photos on the pitch. For the St. Dominic Academy girls soccer team, those pictures — and the single goal that led to them — were worth a thousand words.

The 14th-seeded Saints used freshman Natalie Brocke’s 58th-minute strike and rode it all the way to the finish, stunning No. 3 Hall-Dale with a 1-0 win in a Class C South preliminary-round game Friday afternoon. St. Dom’s, which won just three times during the regular season and was the final team to qualify for the postseason, will meet No. 11 Carrabec in a regional quarterfinal next week.

“We really analyzed exactly how (Hall-Dale) played,” St. Dom’s coach Tyler Shennett said. “We formulated a system that was going to be able to attack them effectively. … No regrets whatsoever. It worked out. One-zero’s not the greatest win ever, but overall it’s honestly kind of the scoreline we were looking for.”

The Saints (4-10-1), who endured a winless stretch of five straight games at one point this season, never stopped believing.

“We’re a family, and that’s honestly what I think pulled it out today,” said Saints midfielder Rebecca Zimmerman, one of only two seniors on the squad. “Coach was instrumental in us being the team that we are today. He brought us from girls who sometimes fight with each other to being a team where I would literally do anything for any one of them. He kept believing in us. It made me, the other captains and everyone on the team keep believing in themselves.”

Hall-Dale (12-3-0), which played in the Mountain Valley Conference championship game on Wednesday, never seemed to get going. The Bulldogs were oftentimes complacent and narrow-minded, failing to turn small periods of pressure into anything sustainable. After enjoying the better of the run of play in the first half without putting a goal on the board to show for it, the hosts allowed St. Dom’s to regroup at halftime and find its way into the game.


That turn of momentum paid off for the Saints just shy of the hour mark, when Zimmerman connected for a quick one-two combination with Brocke. Zimmerman looked up and led Brocke into space with a through ball that cut the heart of the Bulldog back line, and Brocke finished off her one-on-one chance by beating Hall-Dale keeper Bethany Ives cleanly for the lead.

“That’s something we’ve worked on all season long,” Shennett said. “Short-short-long, playing two short passes and then looking for that long ball. I’m very much against kick-and-chase, and I don’t think we did that today. We looked for balls that had purpose today.”

Though the Saints dropped into a deeper defensive shell with the lead, they were hardly satisfied with what they’d done through the first hour. Instead, they matched the rising Hall-Dale intensity and gave them little through the center of the park.

“They had it packed in pretty well,” Hall-Dale coach Guy Cousins said. “We attempted to try to attack centrally today, which is not one of our strengths. … We kept trying to penetrate down the middle, and that’s where their strength and their numbers were. Our strength is using the flanks to be able to attack the middle, and we just weren’t successfully able to play our game for the number of minutes necessary.”

The best chance for the Bulldogs to find an equalizer came off the head of Iris Ireland five minutes from full time. Rita Benoit’s corner kick found Ireland free 15 yards from goal, and Ireland’s high looping header evaded the reach of Saints keeper Hannah Kenney.

“My heart dropped,” Zimmerman said. “I thought it was in. I thought she scored. I was like, ‘Not again.’ We’ve been in that position before.”

On Friday, the Saints were not in that position any longer. They were in position to celebrate a tournament win instead.

“Coming from freshman season where we barely won a game to this season where we didn’t win a lot, the wins mean a lot to us,” Zimmerman said. “It means a lot to me and (co-captain Reagan Hachey), so I think that’s where that stems from. It means so much to the captains that the rest of the team feeds off it. That’s why you see us get so excited.”

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