Even a few weeks ago, the notion that the East Syracuse-Minoa boys soccer team would find its way to the state Class A final four was, at best, a long shot and, at worst, ridiculous.
So the fact that the Spartans did reach this point was amazing enough, never mind that the journey ended in Saturday’s 3-0 defeat to Section VIII champion Jericho in the state semifinals at Middletown High School.
Going in, ESM knew that Jericho, hailing from Nassau County, Long Island, had most of the tactical edges. Only a superb defensive effort, combined with a dash of the good fortune it had enjoyed throughout the post-season, could deliver another surprise.
Instead, something happened that was new for the Spartans in the playoffs – giving up an early goal. Jericho’s Derek Medolla pushed a shot past ESM netminder Casey Sullivan just 4:05 into the game.
Now playing from behind, the Spartans tried to establish its own attack, but Jericho wouldn’t let them. Instead, the Jayhawks controlled the flow of play and, in the 31st minute, doubled the margin to 2-0 on Jon Amidio’s goal.
ESM did stage more assaults on Jericho’s end in the second half, yet could not get on the board to put any pressure on the Jayhawks, who sealed it when David Orr beat Sullivan with 5:05 left.
So ended the Spartans’ 15-6-1 season, which was an historic one. By surviving overtime at Indian River, a shoot-out with defending champion Jamesville-DeWitt and another overtime thriller with Fulton, the Spartans earned its first Section III Class A title since 2006.
Regional playoff wins over Mohonasen and Massena followed, and it helped ESM go further than ever before.
Now coach Mark Carr will deal with the departure of seven seniors, including Sullivan, Jeremy Barbuto, Nick Capriotti, Connor McEachron, Senid Hakic, Kyle Scanlon and Cam Diedrickson. Key players like Jarrett Temple, Esad Tihic and Ifran Tihic return in 2012.