Marco Mikolaiski couldn’t explain the feeling running through his body when he scored what proved to be the game-winning goal with 3:41 left in the second half in a 1-0 victory for Fordham Prep against Regis in the CHSAA Class A intersectional semifinal at Belson Stadium on the campus of St. John’s University.
The senior also can’t quite comprehend his propensity to score big goals against the Rams’ biggest rival. But Mikolaiski, who also netted the winner in the junior varsity Archdiocesan title game against the Raiders as a sophomore, is just fine with that.
Fordham Prep advanced to the intersectional championship game for a third consecutive year and the Rams have a chance to win back-to-back titles Saturday when they face Archbishop Molloy, which defeated St. Peter’s, 3-0, in the other semifinal.
Weather conditions played a factor in the game, which was for the most part played in a driving rain with swirling winds gusting to 40 mph. But the complexion of the game changed with the sending off of Regis star Justin Griffiths in the 65th minute by referee Jimmy Memos. The senior, who scored four of his team’s five playoff goals, received his second yellow card for a tackle from behind on Nick Paganelli.
Now the Raiders had to put numbers behind the ball, push center forward Will Eberts back and defend for the final 15 minutes, hoping for a counter or for the game to go to penalty kicks.
Pete McNamara made a tactical substitution, bringing Mikolaiski on for Ciaran Sleeper up front.
The move paid dividends when Mikolaiski tapped a ball headed by Jeffrey Horn following a cross into the net for the game’s lone goal. It was also Mikolaiski’s first goal of the season. He is unknown no more.
“When the ball went in I was so relieved because it’s been a bit of a struggle this year putting balls in the net,” goalkeeper Stefan Manz said. “Our defense has been amazing. … Once that ball went in, it was a relief because we had it in our hands.”
Down a man and down a goal, Regis (10-4-1) pushed for the equalizer and nearly scored one on a free kick by senior Alex Hryhorowych from the left side of the 18-yard box. But Edward Jacob tapped the service over the crossbar with 2:06 remaining for the Raiders’ final scoring chance of the game.
Fordham Prep (9-2-4), meanwhile, will play in the intersectional championship game for the third consecutive season, a major accomplishment since the Rams graduated several players from last year’s squad.