No matter what had gone on during the regular season, it would be worth it for the Westhill boys soccer team if it captured a third consecutive Section III Class B championship.
This time, the Warriors started out as the no. 3 seed, in the same half of the bracket as Marcellus, who faced a tougher task as the no. 7 seed, its quest for a long playoff run coming down to whether it could conquer one of its fiercest rivals.
It was a quarterfinal pitting the Mustangs against no. 2 seed Skaneateles, whom it played tough the week before in a 2-1 defeat.
Now, on that same Hyatt Stadium turf , with much higher stakes and without its leading goal-scorer (David Bosak), the Mustangs nearly got even – but were caught and passed in the late going and took another 2-1 defeat.
Bosak, was injured in his team’s 6-2 first-round win over Lowville, where he had two goals and one assist before going to the sidelines, but the Mustangs were far from timid in the early going, and it it paid off.
Just 10:38 into the game, off Tristan Jarvi’s corner kick, the ball rode the wind to the left side, where Steve Matro crossed back to the middle, and Ryan Lundrigan’s well-placed header eluded Yorvan Solis and found the net.
Gradually, the Lakers shrugged off this goal and began to take control, only to run into a determined Mustangs defense that turned away most of the early runs.
Then Marcellus goalie Dan Balman robbed Sam Gadjo and Tylar Moss on back-to-back shots point-blank late in the first half. As if that wasn’t enough, in the 51st minute, the Lakers were awarded a penalty kick – and Balman stopped Gadjo again.
But with 15:22 left, Andrew Moss took a free kick from midfield. Gadjo, amid traffic in front of the net, got a head on it and pushed the ball past Balman to tie it, 1-1.
Five minutes later, from the right side, Tommy Reed sent a hard shot from the right side toward the left post. Balman made a terrific diving stop, but could not hold on to the ball and Owen Cheney, in the perfect spot next to Balman, was able to convert the go-ahead goal.
Having not attacked too much since its opening goal, the Mustangs, now trailing, pushed forward, and in the final minute a free kick fell to Josh Wilkinson in front of the net. Wilkinson had a wide-open look – but hit it over the net.
Meanwhile, Westhill began its sectional tournament run with a routine first-round match last Wednesday against no. 14 seed Sherburne-Earlville, doing all of the hard work in the first half to eliminate the Marauders 3-0.
All of the goals came in the first 40 minutes as Bo BenYehuda twice earned assists. Charlie Bolesh and Jack Grooms scored, as did Adam Herne as David McPeak grabbed an assist of his own.
Still at home for the quarterfinal round, Westhill took on no. 6 seed South Jefferson, who had blasted Adirondack 6-0 to get this far. This turned out to be quite stressful for the Warriors, who were pushed to overtime – but beat the Spartans 2-1.
Garrett Frezo’s second-half goal helped South Jefferson erase Westhill’s early 1-0 advantage, and with Spartans goalie Evan Widrick making 13 saves, the game remained tied at the end of regulation.
Picking up the pressure in OT, Westhill got the game-winner, seeing Herne and Mack Etoll pick up the goals and Braden Krzykowski get an assist.
In the sectional semifinals, Westhill will take on Skaneateles as Cazenovia faces Camden, who knocked off top seed Watertown IHC in the quarterfinals. Both games are Wednesday night at Jamesville-DeWitt.
West Genesee, the no. 7 seed in Class AA, sought a big upset Thursday night at no. 2 seed Liverpool, a team it lost to twice in the regular season, but got overwhelmed in a 4-0 defeat to the Warriors.
For much of the first half, it stayed 0-0, the Wildcats playing sound defense and daring to counter-attack whenever possible, with the likes of Ryan Washo and Ricky Francisco making good runs.
Even when Jake Zona scored late in the half, WG was close and had a great chance in the last seconds of the half, only to have Francisco’s point-blank attempt sail just over the net.
The Wildcats never were as close again, Zona taking charge as he tacked on two goals in the last 20 minutes to earn a hat trick, with Ricky Lombard adding a goal as Zach Bolton, in defeat, recorded 19 saves.
Bishop Ludden carried the no. 8 seed into the Class C sectional tournament, but didn’t get out of last Wednesday’s opening round, taking a painful 1-0 defeat to no. 9 seed Waterville.
The Indians went out in front on Jeremy Lakata’s first-half goal. Though the Gaelic Knights stopped everything from there, it was well-contained by a fierce Waterville defense that only allowed four shots, all stopped by Tyler Jones. As Waterville advanced to face top seed Cooperstown, Ludden finished with an 11-5-1 record.