Oct 28, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
East Syracuse-Minoa’s field hockey team had one thing in mind – making their way to the championship round of the Section III playoffs.
And the Spartans got there, taking the next step in its evolution in Saturday’s sectional Class B semifinal at Rome Free Academy Stadium when it knocked off 2 seed Vernon-Verona-Sherrill by a score of 2-1.
A long-established power that last won a sectional title in 2009, the Red Devils had the experience edge. But that vanished just 6:42 into the game when ESM’s Judi Neff poked home a goal that gave her side a 1-0 lead.
Other than that, the Spartans spent most of the first half in its own end, constantly under VVS pressure. It took a spectacular effort from goalie Rachel Aird to keep her side in front, her saves including a point-blank stop of Alexis Kavanaugh at the nine-minute mark.
Deep into the second half, it remained 1-0, as Aird got some relief from Sara Hennessey and her fellow ESM defenders, all of them gaining confidence as the game went on.
And it also fired up the Spartans’ attack, as with 11:23 left ESM got a penalty corner, and Tiffany Evans put the shot home, making it 2-0. Though VVS pulled back within one on Kavanaugh’s goal with 1:16 to play, the Spartans were able to hang on.
So in the Class B final, set for Saturday at Cicero-North Syracuse’s Bragman Stadium, ESM will face another surprise finalist, no. 4 seed Whitesboro, who stunned top seed New Hartford 1-0 in overtime to reach the title game.
ESM had to start out as the no. 3 seed in a six-team Class B field, which meant playing in an opening-round game last Wednesday against no. 6 seed Cortland.
That didn’t prove too difficult, though, as the Spartans shut out the Purple Tigers 4-0. Familiar with Cortland through two regular-season meetings (both wins), ESM claimed a 2-0 edge by halftime and doubled the margin.
Only the work of Purple Tigers goalie Mikayla Cerio, who had 21 saves, kept it from getting more lopsided. Evans led the Spartans, scoring twice for the first time in her varsity career, while Meff and Melissa Koch each had one goal. Amy Loder added an assist.
A day later, Fayetteville-Manlius, the no. 2 seed in Class A, had a good chance to make it to the championship, only to get upended in overtime by no. 3 seed Liverpool 2-1 in overtime.
Ironically, the game was played at LHS Stadium, so technically the Warriors were the visiting side. But home-field advantage had mattered in the regular season as the home side won both times for a 1-1 split.
The two sides trudged through a 0-0 first half. F-M goalie Julie Hockenberger twice had to make point-blank stops on shots by Emma Lamison and Emily Burns late in the half.
Just 39 seconds into the second half, though, the Warriors got a 1-0 lead as Lamison charged down the right side, passed to the middle – and saw Peck poke in the game’s first goal.
But the Warriors grew tentative after that play, and F-M sustained a long attack over the next 15-plus minutes. That paid off when Kayla O’Connor scored off a feed from Hilary O’Neil with 13:32 left, tying it 1-1.
Through the latter stages of regulation, both sides had chances to get the lead, but could not finish them off. Liverpool’s defenders turned back every F-M push, and goalie Megan Evangelista made some key stops.
In the seven-on-seven overtime period, the Warriors forced the action. Then, from midfield, Peck gained possession of the ball and, in open field, zoomed past multiple F-M defenders, drawing out Hockenberger, and then shooting the ball past her into the cage for the game-winner.
As Liverpool went on to face Cicero-North Syracuse in the sectional final, F-M finished its season with a record of 10-4-2. Ten seniors will graduate, including Kayla and Kerry O’Connor, along with starters Kayla Pallotta, Weslyn Benn and Sam Hotchkiss.
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