Nov 17, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
In the cruelest way possible, the Marcellus girls soccer team saw its chance of winning a state Class B championship thwarted.
A shot by Oneonta’s Madison Miller that somehow found the net in the waning seconds of regulation led to a 2-1 defeat in Sunday night’s title game at SUNY-Cortland.
“It’s hard to lose it like that,” said Marcellus head coach Laurie Updike. “My heart aches right now.”
Just when it looked like the game would go into overtime tied at 1-1, Miller, from 25 yards out, hit what looked like a routine shot to Marcellus goalkeeper Emily Buschbascher, stationed in front of her net.
But the ball, wet from the rain on the turf that had accumulated throughout the second half, slipped out of Buschbascher’s hands and trickled into the net.
Seconds later, the game was over. As Oneonta celebrated, the crestfallen Mustangs remained in shock, but gathered themselves to accept the second-place medals and plaque as a large contingent of Marcellus fans gave them one more round of cheers.
The task Marcellus faced in the final was a large one – namely, having to beat the state’s top-ranked team for the second time in the state playoffs.
Oneonta assumed that top spot after the Mustangs beat Schalmont in the regional round, and the Yellowjackets knocked off Hornell 2-1 in its state semifinal to get this far.
These two teams had a bit of history, too. Marcellus won its second state title in 2003 in suburban Rochester when it beat Oneonta in overtime. Exactly a decade later, new groups of Mustangs and Yellowjackets met for those same high stakes.
In the first half, the Mustangs would play with a south wind of more than 20 miles per hour behind them, and that would quickly matter.
Just 3:39 into the game, Jada Sargeant, from nearly 30 yards out, hit a long shot toward the Oneonta net. It picked up the wind and took a large bounce that fooled Yellowjackets goalie Maddie Grau and crashed into the net, putting Marcellus in front 1-0.
The Mustangs did not immediately follow it up with extended pressure, though, allowing Oneonta a chance to settle into the game and put together its own runs. The Yellowjackets did get some corner kicks and a free kick in the 21st minute, but Marcellus easily turned them away.
Still, as the half wore on, the Mustangs found itself defending most of the time. Oneonta saw Mariah Ruff pull a free kick over the net in the 28th minute, and four minutes later Maggie Fiacchi sprinted out of her net to meet a dangerous cross and make her best save.
Brielle Filtch nearly made it 2-0 in the 34th minute, taking Madi Belvito’s cross and sending a strong shot into the side of the net, inches wide. Abby Fallon also just missed on a close-up opportunity just before halftime, meaning the Mustangs carried that one-goal margin to the break.
When they came out for the second half, the wind had picked up, and so had the rain. Almost on cue, in the 47th minute the Yellowjackets, now with the wind on its back, pulled even, 1-1, when Buschbascher could not get a firm grip on a corner kick, allowing Oneonta’s Mariah Ruff to pound the loose ball past her.
That forced the Mustangs to go back on the attack, and its attack vastly improved as the second half wore on, generating a series of opportunities.
“We played really well in the second half,” said Updike. “For a long time, we were on the verge of breaking through, and it just didn’t happen.”
Instead, what took place stunned everyone, Marcellus and Oneonta alike, offering a sad coda to the Mustangs’ marvelous season.
What made it more difficult was that it ended the high school soccer careers of 12 Marcellus seniors, including the likes of Filtch, Fallon, Shannon Donahue, Molly MacLachlan, Meghan Witkowski, Makenzie Felicia, Jordin Wentworh and Emma Blystone.
They were all champions – even if the strange ending denied them the prize they wanted the most.