Nov 09, 2006 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Those who pulled for the Westhill girls soccer team saw the team’s inspiring run to the Section III Class B championship as the dawn of a new dynasty to rival Ann Riva’s charges that won three state championships from 1995 to ’99.
That may be true, but for the 2006 edition of the Warriors, a state title would prove to be elusive.
Ahead in the second half of last Tuesday night’s Class B regional qualifier against Section II champion Schalmont at Chittenango High School, Westhill saw that advantage slip away as it lost, 2-1, to the Sabres.
If any single element made the Warriors champions again, it was the ability to adjust its game plan to the opponent, even if it was unfamiliar. That plan nearly worked again.
Going in, head coach Lisa Dwyer said her team knew that its primary goal was to keep Schalmont’s high-scoring junior forward, Jessica Strang, from getting too many opportunities.
To that end, the Warriors assigned Jenna Martens and Alex Root to Strang, and throughout the first half, the duo did its job quite well, never letting Strang get more than a handful of runs, all of them unsuccessful.
Westhill had its share of attacks, too, but despite a 25-mile-per-hour wind at its back, nothing came close to succeeding, and the teams went to halftime in a 0-0 deadlock.
Ironically, when it started playing into that same wind in the second half, something clicked. Just 2:21 into the half, Carly Cooper, just right of the net, crossed — and Emily Zimmerman headed it into the net, putting Westhill up 1-0.
Schalmont picked up its attacks, sending more attackers in to spread out the defense in an attempt to give Strang some room.
In the 61st minute, Strang got the ball and found herself one-on-one with a defender. She then took off, never stopping until she had placed a hard shot past Lauren Snyder into the left side of the net.
Sparked by that tying tally, the Sabres got even more aggressive, rarely letting Westhill clear out the ball as it faced both the pressure and the strong breeze in their faces.
With 7:08 left, Schalmont freshman Laura Snowden tried a low shot from the middle. Screened out, Snyder never reacted until the ball was right in front of her, and it tumbled into the net inside the right post.
Though the Warriors had time to get back even, it could not amount many assaults down the stretch, as Schalmont stayed on the offensive and secured its advancement in the state playoffs.
Finishing with a record of 14-5-1, the Warriors face a big challenge in 2007. Eight starters will depart, including Snyder, Root, Martens, Megan Blaich, Anna Hutchings, Lizzy Coholan, Meghan Lingenfelter and Breanna Zych.
However, potent attackers like Zimmerman, Cooper and Bridgette Dwyer headline the returning cast, making sure that the offense will still be capable as the defense is reconfigured.