Liverpool midfielder Arlind Ramidani (7) dribbles with pressure coming from CBA’s Mike Spizuco (18) during Thursday’s Section III Class AA quarterfinal, where the Warriors beat the Brothers 1-0.
If all went well for the Liverpool and Cicero-North Syracuse boys soccer teams, they would each get into the Section III Class AA semifinals and get opportunities to knock off the top seeds, Fayetteville-Manlius and Baldwinsville.
But the Northstars, with the no. 4 seed, never got there, stunned at home by no. 5 seed Henninger Wednesday night in a long, draining quarterfinal that required penalty kicks to settle.
What made it worse for C-NS partisans was that its defense, always the team’s strong point this fall, was doing what it needed to do in the first half, containing the Black Knights’ attack as Carter Jackson scored to put the Northstars in front, assisted by Zach Williamson.
Trying to add to that 1-0 lead against a team it beat twice in the regular season, the Northstars had all kinds of chances, only to get turned away by Henninger goalkeeper Lubdena Echeni, who finished the night with 18 saves.
Echeni’s efforts were rewarded when Vianey Botame, off a feed from Abdi Abdiabdirashid, beat Ethan Doereschuk for the tying goal. Then Echeni kept making stops through the rest of regulation and 20 tense minutes of overtime.
So it all came down to penalty kicks, five by each side. Twice, C-NS missed, and when Henninger made four of its five chances, it had advanced and ended the Northstars’ season.
Liverpool, the no. 3 seed, was desperate to avoid this fate as no. 6 seed Christian Brothers Academy, involved in so many close games this fall, came to LHS Stadium Thursday night, with a berth in the semifinals against no. 2 seed B’ville (who had beaten Rome Free Academy 2-0) at stake.
Like with C-NS, it proved close and low-scoring, but the Warriors survived it, winning 1-0 in a game that did not feature many real scoring opportunities.
The key was that the Warriors took advantage of one of them early, Justin Lombard flashing open and putting a shot past CBA goalie Matt Buck in the first half.
To its credit, the Brothers’ defense locked down from there, limiting Liverpool and forcing the hosts to defend a slim lead for a long while. Yet the Warriors were up to it, limiting CBA to six shots, all stopped by Ben White in his post-season debut.
So now Liverpool would face a B’ville team it just beat on Oct. 12 in the semifinals, with the winner getting either Henninger or top-seeded Fayetteville-Manlius in the AA sectional final.