Cicero-North Syracuse senior midfielder Stephanie Liberati (14) finds her path to the ball blocked by Massapequa's Nicole Mahin (22) in Saturday's state Class AA semifinal at Cortland High School. Liberati and the Northstars lost, 4-1, to the Chiefs.
Timothy Van Camp Jr.
Absent its leading goal-scorer, the Cicero-North Syracuse girls soccer team still firmly believed that it could capture a state Class AA championship.
But Massapequa wasted little time shattering the Northstars' hopes in the first half of Saturday's state AA semifinal at Cortland High School, ending C-NS's long scoreless streak and converting on a trio of corner kicks and going on to prevail by a score of 4-1.
Going up against a high-powered Long Island squad like Massapequa was difficult enough for C-NS at full strength. Doing so without junior forward Reid Garner, who had scored five goals in the Northstars' three previous post-season games, made it an even tougher task.
Still, C-NS assumed that, at worst, it could lean on its defense to keep things in order. Ever since a late-September game against Baldwinsville, the Northstars had not allowed a single goal - a streak that stretched back 14 games.
That streak ended less than 12 minutes into the first half. Massapequa forced a corner kick, and Kristin Muir fed a pass to the middle, where Meghan McCabe drove a shot past Alyssa Jim into the net to put the Chiefs in front 1-0.
Perhaps stunned by the end of its long shutout run, C-NS saw the deficit go to 2-0 five minutes later. Off a perfectly-timed pass from Alyssa Ianuzzi, Hope Breslin one-timed a shot that Jim had no chance to stop as it zipped into the top left corner.
C-NS had a chance to cut the margin to one in the 23rd minute, but having dribbled around Massapequa goalie Kathryn Hatziyianis, Olivia King missed a wide-open net. Instead, two minutes passed before the Chiefs got another corner kick - and Olivia Stegner did convert, again with Muir on the assist.
Hanna Haven briefly gave the Northstars some hope when her quick 35-yard free kick bound into the net in the 28th minute, but less than six minutes before halftime, the Chiefs turned yet another corner kick into yet another goal as Muir got her third assist on Taylor Kugler's tally.