Nov 07, 2006 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
At many different times this season, any thought that the West Genesee girls soccer team would hoist the Section III Class AA championship banner would be considered absurd.
From a 1-4 start to a spate of mid-season injuries, the Wildcats did everything possible to convince fans to look elsewhere for their title fix.
Yet on a chilly Saturday night at SUNY-Cortland, WG defied all of that early conventional wisdom, earning its first outright championship since 1993 by putting away Baldwinsville 3-2.
“With 28 girls (on our roster), it’s not easy keeping everyone happy,” said head coach Janine Corning. “What carried us through to this point was character and team chemistry.”
Bekah Elmer, whose two goals in the final only added to her growing post-season legend, echoed her coach’s sentiments, saying that the team’s belief in itself helped a lot.
“We knew, deep down, that we could do it,” she said. “There are so many girls on this team who can step up. As a team, we are awesome.”
Unlike its earlier playoff games, WG got the jump this time. Chrissie Hanley scored in the 25th minute, lobbing a well-placed shot over the head of B’ville goalie Jordan Clary and into the net off a nice feed from Maggie Yackel.
That 1-0 lead held until the second half, when Elmer took over. She doubled the margin with a goal 4:29 into the half, and after the Bees closed it to 2-1 on Jen Fabian’s goal in the 50th minute, would emerge again in the late going.
To ease the Bees’ pressure, WG went to a 4-4-2 alignment and began to put on some pressure. With 5:57 to play, Chelsea Kuss sped past the Bees’ defense on the right, went to the corner, then offered a perfect feed to the middle — where Kuss ripped it past Clary.
“I’ve never seen a better (team) leader than Bekah,” said Corning.
That goal would prove to be crucial, as B’ville’s Cara Mitchell scored with 40 seconds left to pull the Bees back within one before time ran out.
For Corning, the win was extra-special, since she had both played and coached at SUNY-Cortland before taking the Wildcats’ job.
“It’s special to win it here,” she said. “A piece of my heart is here.”
Now WG will go to Chittenango High School Saturday at 4 p.m. to face the Section II (Albany area) champion, Bethlehem or Niskayuna, for the right to return to the Cortland-Homer area for next weekend’s state final four.