Nov 14, 2006 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Having created a lifetime of excitement in its two-week post-season run, the West Genesee girls soccer team kept it fun all the way to the end.
Down by as many as two goals in last Saturday’s Class AA regional final against Section II champion Niskayuna at Chittenango High School, the Wildcats nearly made it all up, only to see the Warriors hang on for a 3-2 decision.
By that slim margin, WG was denied an opportunity to return to SUNY-Cortland, alma mater of head coach Janine Corning, and play in this weekend’s state final four.
Going in, the Wildcats knew that, to have any chance of success, it had to contain Niskayuna’s excellent junior forward, Brooke Knowlton, who had piled up 38 goals this season.
It also knew that the Warriors had just played a long, emotionally draining sectional final against Bethlehem just three days earlier, decided in penalty kicks after the two sides played to a 0-0 stalemate.
By contrast, WG had a week to rest and recover from its sectional final win over Baldwinsville, enough time to charge up again.
Late arrivals to the game would miss a lot of action, as the teams had a wild exchange of three goals in five minutes amid a steady, soaking downpour.
Niskayuna took just 1:09 to get on the board, as Kara Sullivan slipped around the Wildcats’ defense and, from the left side, ripped one past Melissa Stevens.
Just as quickly, WG countered, as Colleen Bubnack, not known as a goal scorer for much of the season, crushed a shot from the point that banged off the left post into the net 4:51 into the contest.
Absorbing the blow, the Warriors went back on the attack. A mere 78 seconds later, when Stevens mishandled Whitney Fary’s shot from the right, Knowlton charged in from the left and poked it home
Only at this point did the defenses settle in, fighting off the nerves to make things more difficult on both ends. The rest of the first half was a fairly even battle — with one very notable exception.
In the 31st minute, Knowlton took a pass at midifeld and roared down the left side. Tearing right past two WG defenders while still keeping her dribble, Knowlton didn’t stop until she ripped a shot that eluded Stevens for the Niskayuna star’s 40th tally of the season.
Down 3-1 at the break, WG found it difficult to establish any attack for the early portion of the second half. All that changed, though, when Niskayuna defender Alicia D’Allesandro left with an injury midway through the half.
Suddenly, the charge was on. The Wildcats camped out at the Warriors’ net, watching chance after chance get turned way until, with 7:06 left, Ariel Kramer tipped home Sarah Kuonen’s corner kick.
With the margin at one, the Wildcats’ all-out assault continued, all the way to the end, but Niskayuna turned every chance away and held on.
WG would complete its season at 14-7, having overcome both a 1-4 start and injuries to several key players to earn its first outright Section III title since 1993.
In all, a dozen seniors will depart, including Bubnack, Kuonen, Rachael Lasda, Monica Sisson, playoff hero Bekah Elmer, Chrissie Hanley and Maggie Yackel, all of them vital parts of the Wildcats’ return to glory.
Sisson’s departure is noteworthy in that it ends a family dynasty. She was the fourth Sisson sister to play at WG, and all three of her older siblings (Shannon, Megan and Kathleen) went on to play soccer in the college ranks.
Still, plenty of talent will be back in 2007. Stevens, Kramer, Chelsea Kuss, Amanda Corso, Nicole Perkins, Kiersten Tupper and Lauren Corso will all have a say in whether the Wildcats repeat as sectional champions — and perhaps, go a bit further.