After coming up one win short of a sectional title last season, the Fairport boys soccer team got right back to work preparing for another run in 2013. The offseason workouts and hours of practice and training that began 10 months ago paid off a big way on Friday night as the Red Raiders defeated Churchville-Chili 2-0 to win the Section 5 Class AA crown.
Fairport used its trademark quickness to gain a 1-0 advantage in the first half, with the goal coming from Alex Mangerian and in amazing fashion. Mangerian collected an entry ball from the left side with his back to the net and without hesitation left his feet for a perfectly placed bicycle kick to the upper left side of the net. Fighting the wind in the second half the Red Raiders tacked on an insurance goal in the 73rd minute from Rani Hubeishy to secure the championship.
"We started training together as a team back in January because we wanted to get back to the finals, and win," said Alex Mangerian. "Scoring a goal like that to help my team win a sectional title is the most amazing feeling I have ever had."
Like all season the Red Raiders unique combination of exceptional ball control, precision passing, size and speed was able to limit their opponents to only a handful of quality scoring chances. With the wind at its back in the first half Fairport held Churchville-Chili to less than 10 minutes of possession on its side of midfield. After the teams switched sides for the second half the Saints were able to generate some better scoring opportunities, but the stout Fairport defense held its ground in front of goalkeeper Joe Catalfamo to secure its 14th shutout of the season.
"These guys have really pushed each other to be the best they can be all season," Fairport head coach Gianni Bussani said after the match. "I certainly think our season ending in the finals last year was motivation for this year, and with the work they put in anything short of this would have been a disappointment."
That disappointment may be the same fuel Churchville-Chili uses to lift itself to a spot in the championship game again next year. The Saints will return nine starters from this year's team that finished 17-2-1 and won the Monroe County Division III title with a 9-0-1 league record. Included in that group will be the team's two leading scorers, sophomore Lukas Fernandes (18 goals, 11 assists) and junior Frank Ciliberto (14 goals, 6 assists), all-tournament defender Cam Shipley and junior goalkeeper Kyle McCane, who kept Churchville-Chili in the game win more than a few crowd pleasing saves.
"Coming in we knew Fairport's quickness would be an issue," said Churchville-Chili head coach John Maloney. "We had an amazing season and I could not be more proud of my team. [Fairport] stood where we are last year and now they are champions. I know that will be motivation for our guys next year."
Page 2 of 2 - Another contributing factor to Fairport's success in this game and throughout the season was the ability and willingness of its wing players to cover nearly the entire field from end to end. Combined with the midfield leadership of senior Hunter Critchlow the Red Raiders have now posted 64 goals on the season while holding their opponents to just five.
"When I was growing up my father taught me that one key to being a great team is communication on the field," said Critchlow. "We are always talking to each other out there and that has helped us a lot this season."
"One of our main goals is to always try to be in possession of the ball," added Alex Mangerian. "If we lose possession, we try to get it back as quickly as possible. We try to stay aggressive and that helps us keep control."
Fairport entered the sectional tournament as the No. 1 seed and now sits and 17-0-2 on the season. The Red Raiders were ranked No. 3 in Class AA in New York State in the most recent poll while Churchville-Chili came in ranked No. 7 in the state.
"This is a great accomplishment for us, especially with all the extra work these guys have put in," added Bussani. "Churchville-Chili is the toughest team we have faced all season, I am proud of our players and coaches."