November 11, 2012
Ten Section III soccer champions started the regional round. Six of them are still going, three boys teams going to Middletown, three girls teams going to Cortland, all state final four-bound.
It wasn't just that the success rate of the soccer sides more than trumped what took place on the gridiron in regional play. It was the way they got there - two of them with comebacks, two of them in penalty kicks, two of them requiring neither, just superstar quality.
All of it started last Tuesday, when Jamesville-DeWitt's girls cleared the roadblock known as Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake after three unsuccessful tries in a 1-0 nail-biter, and Fowler used a second-half eruption to take out Malone in 5-2 fashion as the Marcellus girls saw its season end in a tough 2-1 defeat to Schalmont.
Fast-forward to Saturday, and nine regional finals in widely diverse locales, ranging from the trio of games at Fulton to two games at Morrisville State, three at Norwich and one in far-flung SUNY Canton.
That far-flung part proved quite interesting. J-D probably assumed that Massena would be a tiny roadblock after the boulder that was Burnt Hills, but that wasn't the case. Massena led, in fact, 1-0 at halftime, but the two seniors, Jessica Holmes and Maddy Devereaux, just would not let their long-awaited state final four dream die, the pair getting the goals for a very sweet 2-1 win.
Back at Fulton, the first two games in the girls soccer tripleheader also went in Section III's direction. Sauquoit Valley, so close to Class C state titles in 2009 and 2010, now gets a third shot at the big prize after shutting out Unatego 2-0 by getting both goals in the second half. It was literally sealed with a Kiss - or, more accurately, a Serena Kiss goal, with Jenna Mazza also finding the net.
Poland, in Class D, went next - or, more accurately, Mikayla Blumenstock went next. Having scored a three-goal hat trick in the sectional final win over Cincinnatus, Blumenstock merely did it again against Franklin Academy, helping the Tornadoes pull away late for a 4-1 victory. So we go from one phenom (Remsen's Erin O'Connor) to another, in Blumenstock. We're rather spoiled around here.
Liverpool could have used Blumenstock in its Class AA regional final against Guilderland. The Warriors simply could not get going against the Lady Dutch, falling behind 2-0 early in the second half, the first goals it had allowed in the entire playoffs.
But then Emma Geyer got a late goal, and the Warriors went all-out trying to tie it - in vain, Guilderland, in its first-ever regional final, pulled it out 2-1 and, for the second year in a row, Liverpool was ousted in the regional round.
It was wild at SUNY-Morrisville. Fowler, in the boys Class A regional final against Troy Catholic, was down 1-0 at the half. Then the Falcons got a pair of corner kicks in the second half and converted them - one by Abdulkareem Abdulkareem, one by Yahiya Donza - and presto, a 2-1 victory, and the improbable journey of the Falcons from Syracuse's West Side continues.
Utica Proctor keeps going, too. The Raiders' Class AA regional battle with Bethlehem went on and on and on, through 80 minutes of regulation, 30 minutes of overtime, penalty kicks and a power outage (really). Somehow, the Raiders pulled out the PK session over the Eagles, and the first-time sectional champs now has a first state final four to plan out.
So does Poland, who has the rare privilege of sending both soccer teams to the state semifinals. And like Proctor, these Tornadoes had to go through the special, unrelenting pressure of PK's to fight past Marathon (appropriately named foe) in the Class D regional and gain a semifinal berth against..Chazy, who had so many great battles with Hamilton in years past.
That would be it, though. Almost no one thought that Westhill's magical season would conclude in the Class B regional, but Susquehanna Valley played lights-out defense, scored once and that was enough to upend the Warriors 1-0. Fabius-Pompey's great run ended, too, as Lansing topped the Falcons 4-0 in the Class C regional.
Whether from this area or not, a hearty congratulations to all the state final four teams, and best of luck and safe travel to all the games next weekend. And on Veterans' Day, above all else, to everyone who has served our country's flag and worn the uniform of our armed forces....thank you.