MIDDLETOWN — There were many saves, a couple of goals, but the star of the game for Queensbury was not a person.
It was its spirit.
Despite being outmuscled and outplayed for much of the game, the Spartans refused to quit, scored two late goals and defeated Garden City 2-0 Saturday in a Class A semifinal of the State Boys Soccer Tournament at Middletown High School.
Still unbeaten, Queensbury (22-0) plays Vestal, of Section IV, for the championship on the artificial turf of Faller Field at 3 p.m. Sunday.
The win would not have been possible if not for senior goalkeeper Charles Vergneres and the Spartans’ defenders. Vergneres, a senior, began the season as a foreign exchange student from France with limited soccer experience, but became the starting goalie when sectionals began. And Saturday was the moment he may one day tell children and grandchildren about. He made a season-high 13 saves, including a leaping one seven minutes into the game, a few more at point-blank range and still more on quick turnaround shots. Twice, he also got to loose balls deep in the box before Garden City forwards could.
“Charlie was huuuuuge tonight, especially the first half. We could have been down two or three,” Queensbury coach Pete Crotty said.
“I have so much trust in him,” added Greg Maccharulo, who scored the Spartans’ second goal. “I know he’s going to do his part.”
At halftime, being outshot 7-1, Crotty told it like it was to his team.
“The first thing I said to them at halftime was we have to put our big-boy pants on, because they were muscling us around, and we were feeling the cold a little bit. Then we moved on to the few adjustments we had to make,” Crotty said.
Queensbury got more offensive opportunities in the second half, but it still didn’t amount to many quality shots on goal. The Trojans (13-3-5) kept pressuring, but Queensbury’s defense wouldn’t break.
“The back line hunkered down,” Crotty said. “I thought Zach Wiekierak had a great game. The whole back four had a great game. They were under pressure the whole night and they hung in there. I’m so proud of all these guys.”
Queensbury finally hit paydirt with 6:42 left. The Spartans created space between players and the ball got to Matt Ricciardelli, who passed on the right flank to a wide-open Peter Crawford — Garden City argued he was offsides — and the sophomore delivered his 10th goal of the season.
“I didn’t expect it where I was,” Crawford said. “The season’s been sort of rough. I was thankful for that goal, sort of boosted my self-esteem. It just shifted the momentum our way, and from there on it was history.”
With 1:13 left and the Trojans playing up to try to tie the game, Queensbury got the ball downfield and had numbers on the break. Julian Tushabe found a streaking Maccharulo, who shot one past goalie Joe Griffin for his team-high 38th goal of the year.
“We needed that second one,” Crotty said. “That was huge because they’re such a good team. I was so impressed with them. They’re physical and played hard, but not dirty. That’s the best team we’ve played all year long, and for us to advance is tremendous. We found a way.”
“It’s crazy,” Maccharulo said of reaching the state final. “I don’t know how to describe it; there are no words for it.”
Class A State Semifinal
Queensbury (22-0) 0 2 — 2
Garden City (13-3-5) 0 0 — 0
First half — None.
Second half — 1, Queensbury, Peter Crawford (Matt Ricciardelli), 73:18. 2, Queensbury, Greg Maccharulo (Julian Tushabe), 78:47.
Goalies-saves — Charles Vergneres (Q) 13, Joe Griffin (GC) 4.
Follow Will Springstead on Twitter @WSpringsteadPSV.