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Pearl River Blanks Harrison To Advance

Casey Walsh set up the offense with three assists as Pearl River defeated Harrison, 3-0, in a Section 1 Class A first round playoff game on Pearl River's upper field Saturday.

Harrison took the same approach to Pearl River senior forward Casey Walsh that many opponents have this season, sending double teams her way whenever possible in Saturday's Section 1 Class A first-round playoff game at Pearl River. 

Walsh took advantage of them to give the Pirates all the offense they would need.

"She draws so much attention," Pearl River Head Coach Tim Peabody said. "My thing to her was we're going to have to try to release the ball early, because you are going to get double-teamed every time you make your run. If we can get the weak-side runner, we can get goals."

Walsh recorded assists on all three Pearl River goals in a 3-0 victory over Harrison, also putting two shots off the post and at least two more that the Huskies' goalkeeper made tough saves on.

"It could be about her scoring goals, but she's just playing the total game," Peabody said.

The victory propelled Pearl River (14-1-2) into the quarterfinals Tuesday against Eastchester, which defeated Tappan Zee on penalty kicks. The game would be at Pearl River, though that is tentative pending the impact of Hurricane Sandy.

"I told them, let's hope everybody's family is safe. Maybe we play. Maybe we don't," Peabody said. "Last year we had the snow storm and that was hard on everybody. This could be worse."

Pearl River was forced to play Harrison on the upper field Saturday because the school's main field was occupied with the football team's game against Ossining (a 36-6 defeat).

"We were concerned because we were going to play up here," Peabody said. "Our rhythm was going to be a little off. I kept hammering away that this is what it is. We have to play on this field. They have to play on it."

Walsh thought that the nerves weren't a bad thing for her team.

"Everyone was very nervous, but in all honesty, you need to be nervous for a game like this," Walsh said. "We know we are a good team. We know we have a chance of winning sections, but if you come in overconfident, you won't play like you should."

That made getting the first goal that much more important and sophomore Annie White delivered on a pass from Walsh.

"Annie made a beautiful run down the left lane," Walsh said. "I just passed it to her and she made a nice shot. Getting the goal early, like we did (in a victory against) Rye, that really means a lot to us. It really gets us started."

"Casey's ball was fabulous. (The passes on all three goals) were all great balls," Peabody said. "That first one, you get a little bit of relief.  It was what we said. We need to switch the field. When we open the game up, that's when good things happen."

More good things happened when two of Pearl River's seniors combined to push the lead to 2-0, Marissa Scognamiglio heading the ball home off a crossing pass from Walsh. Scognamiglio was playing her second game back with the team after .

"It has been a difficult week or two," Peabody said. "WE were way more nervous than we normally might have been. As much as you want to say we're good now, you never quite get to that point. You know deep in their hearts, they wish it could be different. This is hopefully their outlet. They love being together and playing."

They will continue in part because the defense clamped down as Saturday's game went on. Harrison had chances in the first half, but generated very little pressure at all in the second.

"They played well," Harrison coach Jon-Erik Zappala said. "Their forwards have a great chemistry about them. They capitalized on the far-side breakaway and one in the middle. We wanted to hold them at the half and battle back. We just couldn't get our momentum and finish a ball. I thought we played well and I'm proud of the Huskies."

Pearl River was the only team able to finish in the second half, with Amanda DeCourcey scoring the Pirates' third goal off a pass by Walsh, who took the ball from two defenders before setting up the score.

The defense did the rest, with keeping Harrison from even getting close to a goal in the second half.

“Our whole team worked very well together,” Walsh said. “Kelly Guerci had an amazing game. Her head balls were dead on and any time anyone had a bad touch, she played it out of there.”

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