Dutch fight to the finish

The Enterprise — Jordan J. Michael

Controlled chaos: Guilderland’s Chris Czekay, left, rises to head the ball, using a Fairport opponent as leverage during last Saturday’s Class AA state semifinal match in Middletown. The Dutchmen lost, 3 to 1.

The Enterprise — Jordan J. Michael

What’s over there? The Dutchmen soccer team faced an unbeaten Fairport team in the Class AA state semifinals last Saturday at Middletown High School. Here, Guilderland’s Drew Burns, right, and Fairport’s Rani Hubeishy react after battling for the ball. The Red Raiders advanced, but lost to Massapequa in the finals.

The Enterprise — Jordan J. Michael

Agony of defeat: Guilderland senior Connor Rubin, left, hugs his father after the Dutch lost to Fairport, 3 to 1, in the Class AA state semifinals. Rubin is one of 12 seniors who played his last game for Guilderland.

The Enterprise — Jordan J. Michael

Nice view: The atmosphere was perfect for championship soccer last Saturday at Middletown. Here, fans watch Guilderland play Fairport from high above; Fairport advanced to the Class AA finals.

MIDDLETOWN — Soccer can be a frustrating game. The ball bounces in mysterious ways.

Playing the number-one Class AA team, Fairport, in the state semifinals last Saturday, Guilderland was challenged. The Dutchmen defense had been strong all season — giving up 20 goals in 20 games — but the Red Raiders put the back line on its heels immediately, earning two corner kicks in the first few minutes of the game.

Guilderland had given up three goals in only two games this season, the last being on Sept. 16 against Shaker, but Fairport was able to score three goals in the first 24 minutes on Saturday in Middletown.

Over the next 56 minutes, the Dutch scrapped and battled to tie up the game, but the Red Raiders held. The final score was 3 to 1.

“We were unlucky,” said Guilderland senior Connor Rubin. The Dutch had chances to score, hitting the crossbar twice. “We pushed three guys forward, and just tried to keep attacking,” he said. “Still, we were unlucky.”

Fairport Head Coach Gianni Bussani said after the game that his team hadn’t allowed a goal in four weeks. “Scoring three [goals] is normal for us,” he said. “Giving up a goal isn’t.”

Six minutes after Thomas Mousso had given the Red Raiders an early 1-to-0 lead on a great far- post shot, Dutch striker Kledis Cappollari made an amazing run from midfield, wide, all the way to the goal. His shot was struck at the perfect time, and at a flawless angle to hit the inside netting at the top far side of the goal for the score.

Guilderland is a team that plays well with width; Fairport likes to play the ball in the middle of the field. Something had to give.

Bussani told The Enterprise that the Red Raiders had no specific game plan. “We played to our strengths, and they happen to be in the middle,” he said. “We’ve got some dangerous players in the offensive third, and we knew about Kledis [Cappollari]; he’s a heck of a player, he scored a beautiful goal.”

However, every Fairport goal was stunning in fashion. On the Red Raiders’ third tally, Anthony Gaglianese hit a textbook free kick, the ball getting to Matt Bischoff’s foot right as he got open at the mouth of Guilderland’s goal.

“Today’s goals were a lot prettier than anything we’ve given up previously,” Dutch Head Coach Mike Kinnally said. “They’re really athletic, move off the ball well, and finish opportunities. Even the ones they missed, they struck the ball really well. All three of those goals are something to be proud of.”

Guilderland doesn’t lose a game when it scores first, but Fairport scored first last Saturday. Also, the Dutch usually have more set pieces and shots on goal than the opponent; the Red Raiders led in both categories.

How many games has Guilderland won when the opponent gets on the scoreboard first? The team isn’t used to playing catch-up.

“I don’t know, that’s a little particular, so I don’t remember,” Kinnally said with a mild laugh. “You could over analyze it, but they’re [Fairport] a better team than us.”

Backs against the wall, and the end to its season looming, Guilderland got more aggressive as time clicked on in the second half. With about 17 minutes left in regulation play, Chris Connolly sent in a cross for the Dutch. Cappollari played the ball to Dan DiBiase, and his shot rang off the crossbar.

Connolly, his eyes red with sadness after the game, said that giving up three goals in the first half changed the momentum. “We had a ton of chances in the second half; we could have tied the game,” he said. “We were unlucky, but I’m proud of everybody.”

Guilderland senior Keagan Ciaschetti said that Fairport, which lost to Massapequa in Sunday’s state final, deserved to beat his team. “We were unfortunate, but they’re a good team,” he said. “We hit crossbars, and that’s how the game goes sometimes.”

Although enduring the extreme pain of a season-ending loss at such a late moment of the year, the Guilderland players and Kinnally agreed that 2013 was an extraordinary experience. The Dutchmen completed its goal of a Section 2 championship, and Connolly said it was the highlight of the season.

It had been 17 years since Guilderland had played in the state semifinals.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better season,” Ciaschetti said.

“That’s how soccer goes; it’s tough to measure,” added Kinnally. “They worked extremely hard, but we’re not going to get greedy. We did the best we could.”

Sure, every team that makes the state semifinals wants to win a state title. But, only one team can come away with all the glory.

Rubin had trouble explaining how bad Guilderland wanted a championship.

“That’s why people are crying over here,” he said. “We just wanted it really bad.”