Chittenango When the Westhill boys soccer team looked across the field at Clinton in last Thursday night’s Section III Class B semifinal at Chittenango High School, it saw more than just another team with the Warrior nickname.
Clinton, after all, held the sectional crown, part of a 2011 run to the state final four, and had enough experience still on hand to make things difficult for the undefeated, untied top seed.
For a half, it stayed just as Clinton wanted it, but Westhill’s skill and patience were rewarded in the latter stages as it knocked out Clinton 2-0.
Always a defensive-minded team, Clinton had built a 12-4-1 record this fall against somewhat easier competition in the Center State Conference, but had blanked Vernon-Verona-Sherrill by that same 2-0 margin in the quarterfinals to get here.
Westhill, who knocked out Marcellus 3-1 in its quarterfinal, tried throughout the first 40 minutes to solve the riddle that Clinton’s defense provided. It did not, though, and the two Warriors sides went to the break still 0-0.
No sense of panic struck Westhill, though. Instead, it kept on pushing and ignored the fact that Clinton goalie Max Huckaby was on his way to 12 saves for the night.
With 11:16 left, Westhill pressured again, and amid a pile of players in front of the net, Jackson Haber delivered a low, hard shot that Huckaby had no chance to stop, putting Westhill ahead 1-0.
Instead of sitting on its lead, Westhill kept attacking, and late in the game Conor Powell drove home the insurance goal. Westhill’s defense, mirroring the Clinton style, made that margin stick up as Chris Burrows faced just six shots and stopped all of them.
This puts Westhill (18-0) into Monday’s Class B final against no. 2 seed Cazenovia, who needed a second-half hat trick from Conor Race to get past Skaneateles 3-1 in the other semifinal.
They played twice in the regular season, Westhill prevailing over the Lakers 3-2 in overtime on Sept. 13 at home and claiming the rematch 1-0 on Oct. 9 at Cazenovia.
But the third meeting will mean the most as the Warriors look for its first sectional title since 2004 and the Lakers go after a first-ever sectional crown.