Westhill senior midfielder Jared Ristoff (22) celebrates his first-half goal with teammates Mike MacKnight (23) and Nick French (5) in Saturday’s Class B regional final against Oneonta at Liverpool High School Stadium, the Warriors going on to beat the Yellowjackets 3-1 to earn a trip to the state final four.
The Westhill boys and Marcellus girls soccer teams may hail from rival schools, but in 2013 they were both motivated by the same thing as they entered the Class B regional playoffs.
Having repeated as Section III champions, the Warriors, on the male side, and the Mustangs, on the female side, wanted to atone for not making it past the regional round a year ago, and both wanted to get to the state final four.
They would both prove successful.
In Saturday's Class B boys soccer regional final at Liverpool High School Stadium, Westhill used a pair of early goals to take control against Section IV champion Oneonta and eventually picked up a 3-1 victory over the Yellow Jackets.
Hours later, at Chittenango High School's turf, the Marcellus girls completed its successful run through the regional playoffs by blowing past Section VII champion Saranac 7-2.
For Westhill, an entire year had passed since it had outplayed Susquehanna Valley in the 2012 regional final, only to lose a painful 1-0 decision. Getting back to this point, and prevailing, had turned into an obsession, and playing on the same Liverpool turf where it rallied past Skaneateles 2-1 in the sectional final earlier in the week helped matters.
But the Warriors were not in the mood to fall behind, as it had done against Skaneateles. Instead, it jumped all over Oneonta, and to no one's surprise, Barak BenYehuda was in the middle of the fray.
It was BenYehuda's deft pass in the 18th minute that sprung Jared Ristoff for a solo run to the net, and Ristoff beat Yellow Jackets goalie Jeremy Leary to put Westhill in front. Then, with a spectacular run of his own four minutes later, BenYehuda found the net minutes later, doubling the Warriors' lead to 2-0.
That's where it stood at halftime, and it remained that way deep into the second half, Westhill's defense turning back all of Oneonta's charges.