B'ville girls survive shootout, reach state final four

An entire season of accomplishment and dreams came down to a handful of shots, if the Baldwinsville girls soccer team wanted to keep its state championship hopes alive.

Following a protracted 0-0 duel with Section II champion Bethlehem in last Saturday's Class AA regional final at Chittenango High School , the Bees and Eagles took the matter to penalty kicks.

And because B'ville proved more accurate when it counted the most, it prevailed, 4-2, and advanced to this weekend's state Class AA final four, its first trip here since earning the state championship in 2002.

Part of B'ville's issue, going into this game, was that it might be too rested. Eight whole days had passed since the Bees had held off CBA on Oct. 31 with the Section III Class AA title on the line, and practice can only provide so much stimulation.

Bethlehem, by contrast, had won its sectional final earlier in the week, so it did not have to shake off as much rust. Still, the Eagles had rarely played on an artificial surface, something the Bees didn't have to worry about.

Through the 80 minutes of regulation, B'ville tried to use speed and skill to overcome the physical and tactical play Bethlehem provided. Neither side could break through, with the Bees taking more shots (17, to the Eagles' 10), but not converting.

As it had done all season, the Bees' defense, led by Katie VanDevalk, Jessica Bond and Katie Gildemeyer, offered blanket protection for goalkeeper Casey Chiesa on its way to another shutout.

A pair of 10-minute overtimes, plus sudden death, could not break the logjam either, so as regional co-champions the Bees and Eagles would go to penalty kicks to, at long last, settle their differences.

Both sides scored on the first try -- Marjana Maksuti for Bethlehem, Nicole Close for B'ville. Then the Eagles pulled a shot over the net, giving B'ville the early edge in the shoot-out.

In two of the next three rounds, the Bees converted, while the Eagles got only one. Finally, one more Bethlehem shot found the crossbar, ending the drama.

B'ville takes its shot against John Jay-East Fishkill Friday in the state AA semifinals at SUNY-Cortland at 9:30. The winner moves to Homer on Saturday to face Fairport or East Islip for the state championship Saturday at 10 a.m.

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