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Westhill girls survive MPH, reach Class B semis

For the third straight week, the Westhill girls soccer team found itself on the same field as Manlius-Pebble Hill -- only this encounter meant the most.

The no. 4 seed Warriors and no. 5 seed Trojans gathered last Friday in the Section III Class B playoff quarterfinals, this after a split of their regular-season meetings on Oct. 6 (won by MPH 1-0) and Oct. 18 (won by Westhill 5-3 in overtime).

And the bracket had opened up, since the tournament's top two seeds, Lowville and Clinton, both had been ousted on Thursday -- the Raiders by Watertown IHC, the Warriors by Cazenovia.

Knowing all this, Westhill stayed patient through a long, tense defensive battle before some timely goals down the stretch produced a 2-0 victory over the Trojans.

All through the first half, MPH dictated the flow of play. On one side, it dribbled and forced Westhill into a defensive mode, while many different times it forced offside traps to keep the Warriors from staging too many attacks.

Still, it went to the second half 0-0, and stayed that way for a while. Slowly, though, the Warriors' deeper, more experienced lineup began to exert itself, organizing attacks and waiting for just the right break.

That came when MPH goalkeeper Katie Shaw batted away a shot that looked to be going wide, giving Westhill a corner kick. With 11:04 to play, Valerie Golembiewski hit it to the middle, and Kelly Ristoff timed it just right, flinging a shot past Shaw to put the Warriors in front 1-0.

Not content with that, Westhill kept pushing and, less than three minutes later, got the insurance goal when Sam Marshall took a well-timed pass from Ristoff and hit it past the charging Shaw into the net.

Getting there was simple enough for the Warriors, who began sectional play with a 5-0 romp over no. 12 seed Mount Markham in last Tuesday's opening round.

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