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ESM field hockey reaches Class A final

Spartans stun VVS with goals from Neff, Evans

East Syracuse-Minoa’s field hockey team had one thing in mind – making their way to the championship round of the Section III playoffs.

And the Spartans got there, taking the next step in its evolution in Saturday’s sectional Class B semifinal at Rome Free Academy Stadium when it knocked off 2 seed Vernon-Verona-Sherrill by a score of 2-1.

A long-established power that last won a sectional title in 2009, the Red Devils had the experience edge. But that vanished just 6:42 into the game when ESM’s Judi Neff poked home a goal that gave her side a 1-0 lead.

Other than that, the Spartans spent most of the first half in its own end, constantly under VVS pressure. It took a spectacular effort from goalie Rachel Aird to keep her side in front, her saves including a point-blank stop of Alexis Kavanaugh at the nine-minute mark.

Deep into the second half, it remained 1-0, as Aird got some relief from Sara Hennessey and her fellow ESM defenders, all of them gaining confidence as the game went on.

And it also fired up the Spartans’ attack, as with 11:23 left ESM got a penalty corner, and Tiffany Evans put the shot home, making it 2-0. Though VVS pulled back within one on Kavanaugh’s goal with 1:16 to play, the Spartans were able to hang on.

So in the Class B final, set for Saturday at Cicero-North Syracuse’s Bragman Stadium, ESM will face another surprise finalist, no. 4 seed Whitesboro, who stunned top seed New Hartford 1-0 in overtime to reach the title game.

ESM had to start out as the no. 3 seed in a six-team Class B field, which meant playing in an opening-round game last Wednesday against no. 6 seed Cortland.

That didn’t prove too difficult, though, as the Spartans shut out the Purple Tigers 4-0. Familiar with Cortland through two regular-season meetings (both wins), ESM claimed a 2-0 edge by halftime and doubled the margin.

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