Nov 11, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
East Syracuse-Minoa’s field hockey team was entering new territory when it took on Maine-Endwell in Saturday’s Class B regional final at Cicero-North Syracuse’s Bragman Stadium.
But the Spartans did not stay there too long. Short-handed on the defensive side, ESM was overwhelmed as M-E, the Section IV champions, beat them 4-0 to advance to this weekend’s state final four.
“We went in a little bit nervous, and we didn’t play very well,” said ESM head coach Kate Sergi.
The nerves were understandable. ESM had never played in a state tournament game before. The tournament was not in existence in 1977, the last time ESM claimed a Section III title, and M-E carried far more experience into this contest.
It didn’t help that, the day before the game, senior defender Sara Hennessey broke her foot in a scrimmage against Liverpool, the Class A champions who were trying to stay sharp in a 14-day break between the sectional final and state semifinals (the Warriors had a regional bye).
Perhaps knowing that ESM was short-handed, M-E applied heavy measure in the early stages as ESM had difficulty clearing the ball out of its own end.
Just 6:20 into the game, M-E’s pressure paid off when, on a fast break, Emma Valentine took the rebound of a shot and poked it past Rachel Aird, putting the Section IV champions in front 1-0.
Barely five minutes later, M-E made it 2-0, as Daniella Dean’s nifty long pass from the right side was flicked by Gabby Stein into the cage. ESM called a time-out, trying any way it could to turn things around.
Nothing worked, though, as at the 16:18 mark it got to 3-0, Valentine earning her second goal on yet another fast break, assisted this time by Natalie Longo.
Nearly 20 minutes passed before ESM earned a penalty corner, which quickly fizzled out, and no more followed in the half as M-E kept that three-goal margin until halftime.
Throughout the second half, ESM got more runs, but even those were sporadic and overshadowed by M-E’s overwhelming speed and skill. Only the work of goalie Rachel Aird, who made several point-blank stops, kept it from getting more lopsided until Stein scored her second goal in the game’s final minutes.
Unable to get any real scoring chances, ESM saw its season conclude, one in which it reclaimed its long-lost place among the elite programs in Central New York in just its third season since coming back to the varsity ranks in 2010.
“Winning the sectional title was our goal,” said Sergi. “And everything after that was a bonus.”
And it could still get better. Just four seniors – Hennessey, Alyssa Gaffney, Makenzie Gabriel and Marisa Casciano – graduate. Standouts like Aird, Judi Neff, Brittany Evans, Danielle Ventrone, Melissa Koch, Tiffany Evans, Amy Loder, Stephanie Edmonds and Heidi Reichert all return in 2013.
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