By Michael Lewis
MASSAPEQUA PARK, N.Y. – Trailing by two goals early in the second half, the N.Y. Hota Bavarians didn’t panic. They just got their act together to rally and win the Over-50 DeLuca Cup title of the Long Island Soccer Football League on Sunday.
A couple of standouts from the past played vital roles in Hota’s comeback against its Massapequa counterparts at John J. Burns Park.
Carlos Ledesma showed that he was still deadly on free kicks by connecting for the equalizing goal and goalkeeper Chico Mieles made a pair of vital saves in the shootout. After playing to a 2-2 deadlock in regulation, Hota won the tie-breaker, 3-2. Stephen Sandford converted the game-winning PK.
“We played very well in the first 20-25 minutes,” Hota head coach Trevor Griffiths said. “We let them back into the game towards the end of the first half. A couple of lapses in the back got the two goals that they had.”
That came within a two-minute pass as Paul Biegler was involved in both tallies.
His right-flank feed set up Bruce Stegner in the 34th minute before Matt Mazzilli assisted on Biegler’s goal in the 36th minute for a two-goal advantage.
“We regrouped again and were able to get some goals,” Griffiths said.
Hota sliced the lead in half with a 54th-minute own goal before Ledesma struck off a 30-yard free kick to knot things up in the 82nd minute to force penalties.
“Just brutal way to let them back in the game,” Stegner said.
During his prime a generation ago, Ledesma forged a reputation as one of the most lethal free-kickers on Long Island and in the Eastern New York State Soccer Association.
Griffiths said that Ledesma has been “tremendous.”
“Carlos has been a big addition to the team. He’s such a fantastic footballer,” he added. “He’s got great vision and hits 50 yard passes all the time. Just a really, really good guy to play on the team.”
Added Stegner: “He’s deadly on free kicks. He’s got the pedigree for big games like this.”
Ledesma booted his PK during the shootout over the crossbar, but Mieles came up when it counted. A member of the 1994 Long Island Rough Riders’ championship team in the U.S. Interregional Soccer League, Mieles demonstrated he did not lose his touch on making big shootout saves.
“We missed a couple too,” Griffiths said. “But in the end, we put the fifth one in and that’s what counts.”
It was a tough loss for Massapequa to take.
“Two of the best teams in the league,” Stegner said. “Unfortunate for us that we lost on PKs.”
Hota has several former local standouts from three decades ago, but has helped fuel the team’s success.
“A lot of the guys have been playing together for the last probably seven or eight years in the Over-50s,” Griffiths said. “We’ve got a couple of new additions over the last one or two seasons. The team just has a great camaraderie. We all play together and nd I think that’s what makes us successful Over-50 team.”
There still is plenty of the season to go for Massapequa and Hota.
Hota nipped Olympiacos NY in the quarterfinals, 2-1 before recording a 2-1 victory over SC Eintracht in the semifinals.
With five games remaining in the regular season, Hota (9-1-0, 27) leads the O-50 Division by a point over Polonia (8-2-1, 25), though it has a game in hand. Hota has outscored its foes by a 30-9 margin.
Massapequa (8-1-0, 24) isn’t too far behind, so the O-50 regular-season title chase is still up for grabs. The two foes will tangle again in Park Stadium in Franklin Square, N.Y. on Sunday, June 5 at 10 a.m.
And so are the playoffs. The second- and third-place finishers will meet on June 12 with the survivor facing the regular-season champion on June 19.