By Mike Dougherty
SHRUB OAK – Everything was back to normal after Josh Della Puca squared up and gave Pleasantville a lead in the opening seconds.
And in a matter of minutes, the Panthers were back in stride.
The home turf is closed for renovations, so Pleasantville had to improvise after winning its first Section 1 title last week. Practices were held at Briarcliff and Hackley. The Panthers also visited Mamaroneck for a scrimmage.
“It was a fun time, just going on the bus with everyone and having a good time,” Della Puca said.
The Panthers made quick work of Rondout Valley, cruising to a 17-3 win in a Class C regional final Saturday at Lakeland High School. Any optimism the Ganders came with evaporated when Pleasantville scored three times in the opening minutes.
Heads were down later in the first quarter after the Panthers ran their lead to 10-0.
“It was really an eye-opener,” Rondout Valley midfielder Kyle Meoli said. “A start like that really takes the wind out of your sails. We tried not to get disheartened, but when the goals come in a barrage like that, it’s hard to stay focused. We have to realize they are a much better team than we are. They’re at a point we hope to be at one day.”
Della Puca, Brian Reda, Lucas Cohen and Bryan Arcidiacano built a 4-0 cushion and forced the Ganders (16-4) to call a time out with 9:38 to go in the first quarter.
It provided no relief.
“After we got to 10 goals, I couldn’t believe it was still the first quarter,” Pleasantville defender Jack Drillock said. “It was just a really good effort by everybody, a really good start, and that is something we really stressed.”
The degree of difficulty is about to increase exponentially.
Next up for the Panthers (19-1) is Cold Spring Harbor, the Long Island champion. They meet at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday in the Downstate Semifinal at Middletown High School.
“I know everyone here realizes that’s going to be our toughest matchup of the year,” said Della Puca, who has yet to see his teammates get rattled. “I don’t think we get nervous. We play with such an open mind and so loosely. It really comes together when we all play the right way.”
Pleasantville was able to sub for its regulars in the first half, and got to enjoy running time in the second half. Della Pucca led the Panthers with four goals in limited time. Reda added three goals and three assists and Declan McDermott had two goals and two assists.