Another fast start, and another star turn from Alexis Koval, has the Christian Brothers Academy girls soccer team situated one victory from its first-ever state championship.
Koval's two goals - one early, one late - set the tone as the Brothers beat Penfield 3-1 in Friday afternoon's state Class AA semifinals at Homer High School.
With that win, CBA advanced to Saturday's state title game at Tompkins County Community College at 11 a.m. against defending state champion John Jay-East Fishkill (Section I), who held off West Islip 3-2 in the other semifinal.
"It's exciting to know that our work is paying off," Koval said.
In what's becoming a trend (it scored twice in the first five minutes of the AA regional final against Bethlehem on Nov. 14), the Brothers again wasted little time getting ahead of Penfield, the Section V champions in its first state final four since 1989.
Just 4:56 into the game, Patriots goalkeeper Maddie Willer came 15 yards out of the net to make a superb save - but the ball slipped away, and Koval pounced, lobbing a shot over her head into the unoccupied net.
"It makes the game a lot easier when you get ahead early," CBA head coach Mike McQuatters said.
Indeed, it seemed too simple for the Brothers the rest of the first half. As it protected that 1-0 edge, CBA used its speed, especially on the defensive side, to keep Penfield from getting any open looks.
"Our team speed has been a weapon all year," McQuatters said. "It catches other teams off guard."
Led by Kristina McCann, Jen Locey, Jasmine Harrell and Elisabeth Webber, CBA's back line anchored the whole team effort, not only preventing Penfield attacks, but using their passing skills to set up chances on the other side.
Meanwhile, the Brothers had a fair share of chances to increase its margin, but could not do so until the late stages of regulation.