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Hornets fall just short in AA soccer semifinal

F-M turned back, 2-1, by Cicero-North Syracuse

Fayetteville-Manlius senior midfielder Paul Kwoyelo (20) takes the ball and charges down the middle of the field during Thursday night's Class AA semifinal against Cicero-North Syracuse. The Hornets lost, 2-1, to the Northstars.

Fayetteville-Manlius senior midfielder Paul Kwoyelo (20) takes the ball and charges down the middle of the field during Thursday night's Class AA semifinal against Cicero-North Syracuse. The Hornets lost, 2-1, to the Northstars. Scott Schild

— Aaron Epling had given himself another chance, just in front of the net, as the Fayetteville-Manlius boys soccer team tried to catch up to Cicero-North Syracuse in Thursday night’s Section III Class AA semifinal.

Barely two minutes remained in regulation, and the no. 6 seed Hornets, down two goals early, had stormed back into contention, and if all went right here, F-M could push the game into overtime, where it had prevailed on this same Nottingham High School turf a week earlier.

Epling hit just the right shot to find the top of the net – but Northstars goalie Jon Runge, who had rarely started this season, leaped and deflected the ball over the net.

The ensuing corner kick was stopped, too, and C-NS, the no. 2 seed, held on for a 2-1 victory, advancing to Monday night’s championship game against Utica Proctor, who had stunned top seed Liverpool by that same score in overtime earlier in the night.

F-M had beaten C-NS in their lone regular-season meeting on Sept. 25, and the Northstars, remembering that outcome, wasted little time in its quest for payback.

Just 1:16 had passed when, off a corner kick, Bryan Sibble passed it to the middle and T.J. Sprague connected with a header to the top of the net.

C-NS continued to apply early pressure, and in the 12th minute exploited a Hornet turnover in the middle as Sibble grabbed possession and, when F-M goalie Jim Brady charged, Sibble flicked it over him into the unoccupied net.

Having gained a 2-0 lead so quickly, C-NS could not follow it up, and gradually F-M settled into its own attack as the first half wore on. That paid off in the 34th minute when the Hornets' Lucas Averell was fouled inside the 18-yard box, leading to a penalty kick that Epling converted.

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