Nov 03, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
True, the Fayetteville-Manlius field hockey team did not have to wait as long as East Syracuse-Minoa did for another Section III championship – it only seemed that way.
The Hornets, absent a title for nearly a quarter-century, finally saw that drought end Saturday night at Rome Free Academy Stadium when it defeated Cicero-North Syracuse 1-0 in the sectional Class A final.
As for ESM, after going 35 years between championships, it repeated as the rulers of the Class B ranks on that same RFA turf Saturday, the top-seeded Spartans fending off no. 2 seed Camden 2-1.
F-M’s championship culminated a season-long saga where the Hornets (15-1-2), along with C-NS, had separated themselves from the rest of the Class A crowd – but not when they faced each other.
They first played Sept. 19, on F-M’s turf, and it ended in a 1-1 draw. The Oct. 8 rematch at Bragman Stadium brought the Hornets its lone defeat of the season in a 2-1 decision, but it was far from a discouraging result.
From that point forward, the Hornets had rolled through all of its opposition, including a 3-0 shutout of Rome Free Academy in the Oct. 27 sectional semifinals. C-NS, meanwhile, had outscored Liverpool 5-3 in its semifinal to set up the decisive title-game showdown.
Cold temperatures and rain made for slick, tough conditions, and it soon became apparent that whoever would get the first goal would be in a valuable position.
F-M gained that position just 9:10 into the first half, when Gabriella Gorgoni’s shot flew past C-NS goalie Hannah White. Though denied many opportunities for the rest of the first half, the Hornets clung to that one-goal edge.
As the second half wore on, C-NS attacked more, trying every conceivable formation. None of them worked, though, as F-M’s sound defense turned away opportunities.
Back-line players Brooke Wilson, Anna Porter and Hannah Frank protected the cage, and when that didn’t work, goalie Julie Hockenberger did her work, earning seven saves for the biggest shutout of her career.
Somehow, Gorgoni’s early goal held up, and the Hornets were champions, heading for this Saturday’s Class A state quarterfinal – ironically enough, on the C-NS turf – against Section II champion Shenendehowa, which starts at 4 p.m.
Earlier on that Saturday, ESM will play its own state quarterfinal, a second go-round that followed a sectional final where it continually put pressure on Camden, which didn’t always lead to goals – but allowed the Spartans to maintain control.
From the five-minute mark, ESM embarked on a string of penalty corners that would add up to 17 by game’s end. Yet it took until the 15-minute mark before the Spartans got on the board.
It came when Stephanie Edmonds took a shot that Blue Devils goalie Emily Collins stopped. The ball went out to Danielle Ventrone, whose pass found a wide-open Koch, who beat Collins for the go-ahead goal.
Camden blanked the Spartans the rest of the first half, and through the early portion of the second half, too, despite a host of opportunities.
Amy Loder, so often the focal point of those missed penalty corners, took it on her own stick to make it 2-0, breaking loose on a fast break and cutting in on a diagonal route before slinging a hard shot past Collins.
As it turned out, that was the game-winner. Camden finally got some chances late in regulation and cut the deficit to one on Liz Link’s goal with 4:42 left, but could not generate another decent scoring chance as ESM controlled possession down the stretch and secured another title.
Just like with F-M, the Spartans will play the Section II champions, in this case Burnt Hills/Ballston Lake, in the state quarterfinals, and a win would mean another visit to Bragman Stadium for the state final four on Nov. 16-17. ESM faces Burnt Hills Saturday at noon at Bragman Stadium.
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