Liverpool On a turf it knows quite well, the Baldwinsville boys soccer team took a tough first step toward what it hopes is a fifth consecutive Section III Class AA title.
The no. 2 seed Bees struck quickly against no. 10 seed Nottingham in Friday's AA quarterfinal at Liverpool and, for the most part, relied on its defense during a 2-0 victory over the Bulldogs.
Poor field conditions at B'ville necessitated a move to LHS Stadium's turf, the same surface on which the Bees knocked off Fayetteville-Manlius in last year's sectional final.
Awaiting them was Nottingham, who had pushed the Bees to overtime on Sept. 27 before B'ville pulled out a 3-2 decision, one of three OT wins this fall.
Here, B'ville didn't waste any time going out in front. Just 1:02 into the game, Mike Guardino's quick free kick found Adam Lauko on the wing, and Lauko fed it to the middle, where Ben Ramin's header beat Nottingham goalie Bior Ajak.
And there it would remain for the rest of the first half. B'ville did not have a full amount of opportunities against a stingy Bulldog defense, but it offered its own formidable resistance.
Led again by Matt Miles, Sean Stewart, Evan Lavelle and James Goodridge, the Bees' back line never allowed Nottingham much room. And when it was needed, goalie Alex Bono would make key stops, including a diving save on Almedin Bektic's hard shot three minutes into the second half, Goodridge kicking away a possible rebound.
Gradually, the Bees' pressure increased, too, and with 14:10 left it executed a near-flawless free kick. Guardino, from 20 yards out on the left side, flicked a soft lob to the middle, and Lauko perfectly timed his dive, heading the ball into the net for the clinching goal.
Once that was done, B'ville watched as, on the same turf, no. 6 seed Cicero-North Syracuse knocked off no. 3 seed Liverpool 2-1.
This means the Bees and Northstars will get each other in the AA semifinals, with the winner moving on to a championship game against Fayetteville-Manlius or CBA.