Nov 08, 2010 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
No amount of interpretation was required when the Baldwinsville boys soccer team collectively held up four fingers at the end of Monday night’s 2-1 victory over Fayetteville-Manilus in the Section III Class AA finals at Liverpool High School.
After five long decades without a championship, the Bees had now claimed its fourth consecutive sectional title, and in the most dramatic way possible as Stefan Merchant notched the game-winning goal with 27.3 seconds left in regulation.
“It’s unbelievable,” said head coach Tim Scheemaker. “And it says a lot for the soccer community in Baldwinsville.”
Many in that community filled the stands at Liverpool for this, the Bees’ third sectional final against F-M in its four-year run. And it all came down to one fateful free kick as regulation time wound down.
From 40 yards out, and left of the net, Mike Guardino lobbed the free kick into a crowd of Bees and Hornets players in front of F-M goalkeeper Ryan Carter. Merchant, among that crowd, said he stood and watched as Alex Bono, the one-time goalie turned forward, got a piece of the ball and hit it toward him.
“Alex got a touch (on it),” said Merchant. “I fired and hit it as hard as I could.”
Merchant did better than that, beating Carter as the ball tumbled into the net. Seconds later, the Bees had that fourth sectional title, and the fourth for a B’ville team in as many days following the successes in girls soccer, field hockey and football.
The situation for B’ville exactly mirrored 2009, where F-M won both regular-season meetings, but the Bees won the sectional final. Here, it had happened again, the Hornets squeaking out 1-0 and 2-1 victories in evenly played regular-season showdowns. Again, though, it would turn in the third and most important meeting.
But it didn’t happen right away. Indeed, it was F-M dominating the game’s early stages with a series of attacks that culminated when, just 3:19 into the game, Brian Ward fed Joe Mahr, whose shot slipped off the hands of goalie Andrew Coughlin and found the net.
“The goal woke us up,” said Scheemaker. “We started playing again. They (F-M) started sitting back, and that gave us confidence. I was happy with our response.”
In short, the response was B’ville picking up heavy pressure on the Hornets, Ben Ramin providing the big spark. In fact, it was Ramin who, in the 15th minute, offered a deft pass to a wide-open Dan Knight, who beat Carter for the tying goal.
From there, it settled into a long stalemate that lasted more than an hour of game time. Other than a handful of pushes, F-M found itself in a constant defensive mode, successfully turning away chances, but rarely threatening the Bees.
“They (B’ville) were the better team tonight,” said F-M head coach Jeff Hammond. “They were better with the ball, and they dealt better with the pressure.”
Indeed, the pressure grew as the game entered its late stages. B’ville nearly went ahead with 5:50 left – and it was Merchant whose touch shot beat Carter, but banged off the right post, without a rebound.
Five minutes later, Merchant atoned – and B’ville was again on its way to the state Class AA playoffs. It will host a regional final against the Section II champions this Saturday, with the winner advancing to the Nov. 20-21 state final four in Middletown.