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.