East Syracuse Minoa defender Cara Miller (13) hits the ball past Liverpool’s Olivia Hayden (6) during last Tuesday’s match at LHS Stadium. The Spartans beat the Warriors 2-0 on Lindsey Russell’s pair of first-half goals.
Trying to stay above the .500 mark as it started its penultimate week of the regular season, the East Syracuse Minoa field hockey team did that and, more importantly, gave itself a large boost of confidence as the Section III playoffs loomed.
Largely, it had to do with the Spartans venturing to Liverpool last Tuesday night and shutting out the Warriors 2-0, seeing all the aspects of its game click on the LHS Stadium turf.
During the first half, ESM twice converted, each time with Lindsey Russell earning the goals. Staked to that margin, the Spartans’ defense spent the rest of the night thwarting every Liverpool attempt to catch up, getting seven saves from goalie Cory Palmer.
And all of this came one day after ESM claimed a tense 1-0 Spartan duel with New Hartford, avenging its defeat to New Hartford in last year’s Section III playoffs in a game that raised funds for pediatric cancer research and the “Go 4 the Goal” program, with both teams honoring the program by wearing gold-colored shoelaces.
It was scoreless most of the way, both sides getting lots of chances. Palmer recorded 10 saves, and her New Hartford counterpart, Rebekah Stolo, made nine saves.
But with overtime looming, ESM’s Emma Conte took a pass from Gillianne McCarthy and struck a back-handed shot past Stolo with 3:37 to play. As it turned out, that goal meant something for two days, since ESM carried that momentum all the way to its win at Liverpool.
Watching all this take place, Fayetteville-Manlius was eager for its own game with Liverpool 24 hours later. Here, the Hornets didn’t settle for a single goal in its 3-0 shutout, getting full payback for a 4-2 defeat to those same Warriors on Sept. 9.
With its defense vastly improved from that initial meeting with Liverpool (it held the Warriors to a single shot on net), F-M could afford to be patient with its attack. That led to goals by Lindsey Kilpatrick, Susan Bansbach and Maddy Duggleby, with Kilpatrick adding an assist.
On Thursday night, ESM would face Cicero-North Syracuse, who had just announced its status as a prime Class A title contender by going to Baldwinsville and knocking off the reigning Section III Class A champion Bees 4-1 earlier in the week.
For a long while, the Spartans hung in there, keeping the game scoreless, but the Northstars pulled it out, 1-0, when Bailey Lazore converted in the second half off a feed from Julia McDonough. Other than that, Palmer made seven saves, two more than C-NS counterpart Ally Wagner.
As it happens, ESM and F-M close the regular season against each other on Saturday afternoon, following the Hornets’ trip to Baldwinsville on Wednesday and the Spartans hosting Auburn.