Nov 11, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
For 12 long and sometimes difficult months, the Liverpool girls soccer team put all of its efforts into getting back to the same point it reached in 2011, and going a little bit farther.
In the end, though, the Warriors did repeat its Section III Class AA title, but was again stopped there, beaten 2-1 by Guilderland in Saturday night’s AA regional final at Fulton.
“We had a lot of chances and we fought to the bitter end,” said head coach Kevin McGrane. “We just didn’t make enough plays.”
Up until now, Liverpool had not allowed a single goal in the post-season, and it also had the advantage of experience on Guilderland, having reached the regional round a year ago, only to take a 2-0 defeat to Bethlehem.
By contrast, the Lady Dutch were a first-time Section II champion, brand-new to the state playoffs, but played with the confidence and poise of veterans, immediately putting the Warriors on the defensive with its speed and skill.
Just 5:55 into the game, that attack paid off. Ali Cardinal’s strong throw-in from the right side found its way to the middle, and a deft pass from Jessica Capone set up Angela Luizzi for a point-blank shot that Rebecca Phillips-Allen had no chance to stop.
Trailing for the first time in weeks, Liverpool spent the first 20 minutes in a frustrated mood, unable to get any clear space against a tenacious Guilderland back line.
That changed, though, after Breanna Sharpe just missed on a golden opportunity midway through the first half. Liverpool’s pace picked up, as it mainly tried to spring sophomore speedster Ore Akinpelu through the back line.
The game’s two biggest plays happened in close proximity. Late in the first half, Akinpelu broke through and appeared to have a solo run at Lady Dutch goalkeeper Jenna Cubello, but Cubello, in a bold move, ran out 30 yards and kicked the ball away just before Akinpelu could flick it past her into the unoccupied net.
Near that same spot early in the second half, Chelsea Bowers tripped up Guilderland’s Laurie Knapp, but it took place just inside the 18-yard box, and a penalty kick was whistled. Emily Center converted it, and Liverpool trailed 2-0.
“It’s a tough call, and it’s frustrating,” said McGrane, who pointed out that Sharpe also got tripped in that same area on the other end of the field, but it only led to a free kick, which the Lady Dutch stopped.
Unable to do anything in its 3-4-3 alignment, Liverpool took more chances as regulation time ran low, and it paid off when Emma Geyer, from 25 yards out, ripped in a goal with 10:06 left, cutting Guilderland’s margin to one.
Fired up by that goal, the Warriors went all-out and got multiple chances to tie it. Twice, Sharpe had good shots on the right side, but hit them right to Cubello, and other times the Lady Dutch kicked it away just in time, hanging on and advancing to its first-ever state Class AA final four this weekend at SUNY-Cortland.
While Liverpool was sad about the defeat, McGrane said it could still take a lot of pride from the fact that it overcame a brutal 0-4 start to win 14 of its last 16 games and repeated its sectional title, even if a trip to Cortland proved elusive at the end.
“We have nothing to hang our heads about,” he said. “We had a tremendous season.”