Even with a no. 8 seed for the Section III Class B playoffs, the Solvay girls soccer team imagined that it could accomplish just what it did a season ago, making a deep run into the tournament and knocking off some long-established powers out of the way.
But Westhill, the no. 9 seed, saw to it that the Bearcats did not make it out of the first round, charging into Earl Hadley Stadium Tuesday night and prevailing, 2-1, to advance to a meeting with top seed and defending champion Watertown IHC in the quarterfinals.
The Warriors had beaten Solvay by that same 2-1 margin at "The Pit" on Sept. 27. But the Bearcats had won the rematch 4-1 at Westhill on Oct. 20, a mere six days before the two neighbors squared off once more, with a season on the line.
A wild opening sequence saw both teams get multiple shots without converting. Solvay took several direct shots, but Sam Peebles, the Warriors' freshman goalkeeper, handled all of them.
In the 14th minute, Westhill took its turn on the attack. Lindsey Lippert got open at the point and, from 20 yards out, fired a hard shot off the crossbar - but it hit the back of Solvay goalie Chelsea Root and scooted past the line, putting the Warriors ahead 1-0.
Three times late in the half, Solvay forced corner kicks, but could not convert as Allie Bush, Alyssa Cywilko, Page Rogers, Kelly Lippert and the rest of the Warriors' back line remained calm and cleared out the ball.
Just as the teams hit halftime, the breeze doubled in intensity, reaching up to 25 miles per hour - and Westhill would enjoy that wind advantage in the second half, a major break that would not go unnoticed.
Four minutes into the second half, Maggie Tripodi took a long, wind-aided pass up the middle of the field and was tripped inside the 18-yard box before she could take the shot. Westhill was awarded a penalty kick, and though Kelly Ristoff hit it right at Root, the ball just slipped out of Root's fingers past the goal line.