The Fayetteville-Manlius girls soccer team earned its first Section III championship since 1996, defeating Baldwinsville 3-2 in Saturday's sectional final at Liverpool High School Stadium.
Before the Fayetteville-Manlius girls soccer team took on Baldwinsville in Saturday’s Section III Class AA championship game, head coach Brent Ostranders brought his players into the high school gymnasium.
What Ostrander showed them was the banner that listed the titles various F-M teams have won, but the space on the girls soccer banner was comparatively empty. That was because the Hornets’ last sectional championship came in 1996, before any of the players were born.
According to junior captain Anna Hartzheim, Ostrander told them that F-M only had one goal – “to put 2018 on that banner.”
And F-M has done so, in the most emphatic way possible, by toppling the reigning sectional and state champions from Baldiwnsville.
On a cold, wet Saturday afternoon at Liverpool High School Stadium, the Hornets twice came from behind, and with Rachel Dobricki’s goal with 2:21 left pulled out a 3-2 victory over the Bees.
“It just means so much,” said Hartzheim, who had both of her team’s two goals, and Dobricki agreed, saying that this win was as much for the school, community and all those F-M players who, for more than two decades, tried to win sectional championships and came up short.
B’ville brought to this game a winning aura, but F-M wasn’t intimidated by it, having played the Bees to a 1-1 draw just two weeks earlier.
Even when Simone Neivel powered in a goal 10:50 into the title game to put B’ville in front 1-0, there was nothing close to panic. Gradually, F-M picked up its pressure, and in the 28th minute tied it when Hartzheim’s 30-yard shot from the point fit inside the left post.
But the Bees retook the lead seven minutes later when Hannah Johnson pounced on a long shot that goalie Sabrina Suriani could not hold on to, Johnson passing it to Neivel, who netted her second goal.
That F-M’s deficit didn’t grow beyond 2-1 was a tribute to the work of the Hornets’ defense. Ostrander would credit back-line players like Laura Bonomo, Katy Krueger, Elena Paolini and Sophia TenEyck with steadying the entire team.
Somehow, the Hornets stayed patient on offense, and just past the midway point of the second half, a B’ville foul inside the 18-yard box produced a penalty kick. Hartzheim put it past Isabella Cartier inside the right post.
Cartier would factor in the game’s decisive sequence, too. A B’ville turnover deep in its own end sent Dobricki toward the net. Taking a pass from the left, Dobricki kept possession after the ball hit Cartier’s face, and she put it into the net.
A few minutes later, the Hornets were sectional champions. That it was Dobricki, a five-year varsity player and senior, getting that game-winner made perfect sense since she, as much as anyone, had witnessed the program’s many near-misses, both as a fan and as a participant.
That is gone now, and F-M can look ahead to next Saturday’s Class AA regional final against the Section II champions (Bethlehem or Shenendehowa) at 1 p.m. at Fulton.
Just getting to the sectional final was stressful enough, as F-M jumped out in front of no. 3 seed West Genesee in last Wednesday’s AA semifinal at Chittenango High School, but had to hang on to win 2-1.
In the 23rd minute, Ashley Carter scored off a nice feed from Hannah Kynch. Less than five minutes later, Hartzheim, who had hit the post earlier in the half, found the net to make it 2-0.
Perhaps the two-goal margin lured F-M into complacency, for in the second half it rarely pressured, allowing the Wildcats to start to control the midfield and generate opportunities of its own.
One of them, a free kick in the 57th minute, turned into a goal when Jackie Vigliotti’s perfect 30-yard free kick zoomed to the top right corner of the net, a shot Suriani had no chance to stop.
Energized by that goal, WG stepped up its pace on both ends, rarely letting the Hornets attack while seeking a tying goal. The best chance came with four minutes left, where amid a scramble an F-M player may have brushed the ball with her hand, which would have resulted in a penalty kick, but it was not whistled.
Then, with two minutes left, the Wildcats got one more free kick from 40 yards out, Vigliotti hit it well, but none of her teammates could get a foot on the ball before Suriani grabbed it.
As it turned out, a much bigger prize was gained by the Hornets later in the week, and that banner in the F-M gym will have “2018” put on it, after all.