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Kearney shuffles off to Buffalo after stunning Fontbonne in B/Q final

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Charlie Candela has never been to Buffalo before.

“It’s cold, right?” the Bishop Kearney soccer coach asked.

Candela and the Tigers will find out all about the wing capital thanks to a stunning 3-0 upset victory over rival Fontbonne Hall in the Brooklyn/Queens championship Monday night at Aviator Complex in Brooklyn.

Kearney will take on Buffalo champion and host Nichols School (20-1-0) in the CHSAA state semifinals Saturday afternoon. New York Archdiocesan champion Notre Dame Academy from Staten Island meets Long Island champion Sacred Heart in the other semifinal Tuesday at Aviator Field.

“We’re excited to go,” Candela said.

The players on Fontbonne know all about Buffalo. That’s because the Bonnies have made the trek to Western New York for the past four years as Brooklyn/Queens champions. Having already defeated Kearney twice during the regular season en route to a perfect 15-0 season, the Fontbonne players were already planning their weekend travel itineraries before the match Monday afternoon.

“I told them to finish the job before we start talking about Buffalo,” Fontbonne coach Victor Popovsky said.

Despite a pair of 2-0 regular-season defeats, Kearney (13-2-0) was confident it could beat Fontbonne, especially after Candela made one tweak to his formation at the start of the playoffs that has paid major dividends.

Katie Mason moved from left fullback to outside left midfield and Christina Abate went from forward to left fullback. The switch, Candela said, had a stabilizing effect on his lineup.

“The results have been excellent,” he said. “We’ve been playing with a different spirit. Even though they beat us, our girls knew that we put up a good fight every time we play them.”

Emily Mason, Katie’s twin sister, scored the all-important first goal of the game – and the first conceded by Fontbonne all season – in the first half.

“They were overly nervous,” Popovsky said of his team’s reaction to giving up its first goal. “They were shocked to give up a goal. They were not all together like they normally are.”

The Tigers wasted little time, taking a 2-0 lead into halftime on a goal by Kristina Iudica. Daniela Semilia capped the scoring with a second-half penalty kick for Kearney, which last won the Brooklyn/Queens title five years ago.

“They were sure they would beat us,” Candela said of Fontbonne. “But the team spirit was there for us. The way we put the team on the field, we knew we could do something. To beat Fontbonne in the final, it takes a lot of guts.”

While Kearney will pack plenty of warm clothes for its journey to Buffalo, Fontbonne (15-1-0) is stunned at how quickly its dream season turned into a nightmare.

“To me, we lost to ourselves,” Popovsky said. “We just didn’t function as we usually do as a team. Things didn’t work out and we had an off day…I will say this, though, we’ll get them next year.”

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