Enry Hernandez played boys soccer for R.M. Finley Middle School this past spring. But the 14-year-old had bigger aspirations than just Glen Cove’s junior varsity team this fall.
“I remember after the first day of tryouts, Coach [Brian] Smith said, ‘You made the varsity,’ ” Hernandez recalled. “It made me feel important.”
One can only wonder how the freshman felt after he scored the biggest goal of his young varsity career with a golden goal midway through the first overtime for No. 12 Glen Cove on Friday.
Hernandez’s heroics helped the Big Red earn a hard-fought 2-1 victory against No. 9 Manhasset in a fantastic Nassau Class A semifinal at Mitchel Athletic Complex.
Glen Cove (11-4-1) plays the winner of the late game — between No. 15 Roosevelt and No. 3 Garden City — in the A final at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Mitchel.
Hernandez took a shot from 20 yards out that sent Manhasset goalkeeper Chris Diskin diving to his right. The senior, who was outstanding throughout the match with 10 saves, got his fingers on the ball, but it slowly kept rolling.
Did the youngster believe he had shot the ball hard enough? “I didn’t think so,” Hernandez said with a smile.
However, it had just enough to cross the goal line in the 88th minute to end a back-and-forth game and a great season for Manhasset (10-6-1).
“He got a hand on it, but the ball took a funny spin,” Manhasset coach Mark Giardino said. “Maybe the wind helped it, too.”
In a great display of sportsmanship, Glen Cove players and coaches consoled Manhasset players, many who sat on the turf in sadness and disbelief.
After a scoreless first half, Glen Cove broke through on a beautiful finish by Chrystian Hernandez in the 66th minute to take a 1-0 lead.
But Manhasset answered with a little more than four minutes left when Scott Bayardelle scored after a restart to force overtime.
“This group is the epitome of what a team is,” said Giardino, who started three freshman and three sophomores most of the season, including the semifinal. “It’s not 26 players, it’s one unit.”
On the other side, the Big Red is in search of their first Nassau crown since 2016.
“We all worked so hard,” Glen Cove coach Brian Smith said, “but in the end, we’re here to make memories.”
One freshman, in particular, made quite a memory.
“I don’t really know how to feel, I’m just kind of stunned,” Hernandez said. “This means so much to me and us.”