By CHRIS BROOKS, sports editor, wellsvillesports.com
MARION — One goal can make all the difference. At the beginning of the game, it can be utilized as a giant piece of early momentum. In a tight game in the midst of battle, it can be the missing piece of the puzzle. But one that decides the outcome at its every end, it can provide instant gratification.
Especially at this stage of the game.
With the stakes as high as they have ever been before, there’s minimal room for error. The motive was simple: Win or go home. Between both Bolivar-Richburg and Marion, neither team wanted to be the one that would close the book on their season. That would be the case when they met in their Class C2 Quarterfinal matchup up north, Friday night.
Through over 100 minutes of grueling battle, one team would get the best of all three worlds. Instant gratification for the missing piece of their puzzle to use as a giant shift of momentum going into the next round. It would come just over halfway into double overtime with a game-long, scoreless tie still remaining on the board.
Cassidy Stives would unleash her inner superhero with one giant leap for the Lady Wolverines.
In one of the first upsets of the Sectional tournament to occur, Bolivar-Richburg struck gold on one of their biggest corner kicks of the season. With McKinlee Harris electing to take the kick, it was placed ever so perfectly in front of the Marion goal where Stives stood, springing up to meet the ball with her chest to knock it in past the Lady Black Knights keeper to send the sidelines into an absolute frenzy to end the game with a 1-0 blank to earn their place in the Class D2 Semifinal round next week.
“Marion is a good, well-coached team, so we knew coming into the game that we had to do a lot of things right tonight,” said Lady Wolverines coach Brooke Lovell. “We had some chances to score early in the game, but we just couldn’t seem to find the back of the net. I’m happy that Cassidy was finally able to capitalize off of McKinlee’s corner. The kids worked hard and they deserved to win. They have improved tremendously since the beginning of the season, and I have been proud to watch their growth as soccer players.”
To help set the game-winning chance up for the Lady Wolverines (10-8), it began with a long dribble from about 50 yards downfield by Teegan Sibble, running side-by-side with the Marion defense along the way. The ball would eventually be pressured out of play to set the corner kick up for Harris. With one swift kick, she would end the game by landing the shot directly onto the body of Stives right in front of the Lady Black Knights keeper, knocking it into the right side to send the team into pandemonium after recording the upset triumph.
Both teams combined for just nine shots on goal in what was a heavy display of defense all across their midfield battle, as Marion narrowly outshot Bolivar-Richburg by a 5-4 count. But it was Kyla Gayton that wound up making the victorious effort in between the posts, making all five stops, including some big stops in the early stages of the battle, to preserve the team’s victory.
Next stop for Bolivar-Richburg is the Class C2 Semifinal round, where they will now take on No. 3 Wheatland-Chili — one of the most prestigious girls soccer programs in all of Section V, on Tuesday at a time and venue to be determined.
It will be the first time that both the Lady Wolverines and Lady WIldcats will square off in Sectional play since their 2017 Finals matchup, where Wheatland-Chili took the 5-1 victory.
Lovell says she knows what will come from the challenge that lies ahead.
“We know that Wheatland-Chili is going to be one of our toughest matchups this year,” she said. “Hopefully we can continue to play with the intensity and the perseverance that we’ve been playing with.”
No. 1 Byron-Bergen 9, No. 8 Cuba-Rushford 0
BERGEN — The top-seeded Lady Bees of Byron-Bergen showed why they were Class C2’s team to beat on Friday, as they took advantage of all facets of the game on the field against No. 8 Cuba-Rushford and ran with it, scoring a big four-goal first half to set the tone in what was a 9-0 shutout at home to claim their place in the Semifinal round next week.
“Byron-Bergen was tough. I thought we closed out the season pretty well, but it was unfortunate that we had to run into them,” said Lady Rebels coach Aaron Wight. “The four seniors that I’ve had the opportunity to coach have been a great group to coach. They’re all four-year plus varsity players, and they will be tough to replace. But the big picture is that I’m happy with the way the program is progressing. We still have a strong, young core and I’m excited to see what the future holds next.”
An electrifying Lady Bees offense was led by a nine-point evening from Mia Gray, as she recorded a first half hat trick from within her four-goal outpouring to go with an assist. The top seeds wasted no time providing the start they wanted against the Lady Rebels (9-8-1), scoring twice in a two-minute span in the opening minutes to break the ice, before repeating the same sequence again to start the second half with the momentum remaining in their favor.
In all, Byron-Bergen produced 29 total shots against Cuba-Rushford’s defense, while in turn the defense of the Lady Bees held the nine-seeds to just a pair of shots. In goal, Tara Duvall put a stop to 20 saves in her final game in between the posts, for the team in white and blue.
The end of Cuba-Rushford’s season has been reached, as they conclude their 2022 campaign with a record of 9-8-1 — their second straight winning season under Wight. The Lady Rebels will lose four seniors at the end of the school year in Duvall, Taylor Searle, Sofia Riquelme and Fran Childs.
GV/Belfast 6, HAC 0
BELMONT — After a brilliant season saw them close out with three of their last four games in the win column, Genesee Valley/Belfast earned themselves a first-round bye for what would be their final home game of the season, Saturday night.
Now finding themselves two steps away from the grandest stage in Section V, a visit from No. 7 Harley Allendale-Columbia was in store for the beginning of their playoff journey. It was one that they had hoped to garner a beginning they wanted to have.
Fortunately enough, they would. In both halves.
Genesee Valley/Belfast came out in the first half and made a statement against the visiting Lady Wolves, scoring two goals in the first six minutes to set the tone, extending upon it later in the second half with three more goals to pull away towards victory, and a Class D1 Semifinal berth next week in their 6-0 shutout at Judy Bliven Field in Belmont.
“What an opening act. I am happy that we came out of the gates on fire by scoring a couple of quick goals to set the tone,” said GV/Belfast co-coach Lisa Scott-Schneider. “(Sophie) Zillgitt really added some nice pressure on them, including the last goal in the first half. Just a great shot on goal for Hannah (Southwick-Powers) to clean up and score. Our defense showed up and kept a quality, skilled team to two shots on goal. It was a good team effort, and it was nice to get some youngsters in for some playing experience.”
With a nail and hammer, Genesee Valley/Belfast (12-3-2) began cracking the ice that laid upon the surface just three minutes removed. Starting on a run from midfield by Sophie Zillgitt on the far sidelines, the ball would then work its way to the front where it was met by Bayleigh Tallman. The play would squib over to the opposite side of the HAC goal, where Whitney Young became the final destination, knocking home the goal directly in the middle to the right side of the cage to provide the game’s first crack.
It was only appropriate that after having a hand in the icebreaker, that Tallman would score one herself. A mere four minutes later, the Genesee Valley/Belfast 8th grader did exactly that, garnering the ball in the far right corner in the HAC zone. She then made a sharp turn towards the cage, halted and then resumed on what was a masterful loft over the goalkeeper and towards the far left post to branch out their now-two goal lead.
While a spectacular Genesee Valley/Belfast defense was continuing to hold the Lady Wolves at a complete standstill, despite some late first half pressures down the stretch, one more goal was added right near the end of the period on the offense’s final rush into the zone.
Led by Zillgitt and some incredible finesse against the HAC defense, she would open up the field with a shot right at the opposing keeper. The shot squirted free and created a loose rebound, one that Hannah Southwick-Powers bolted in and capitalized upon top shelf with 42 seconds left to create a 3-0 lead at the break.
With all of the momentum in their favor going into the brief recess, Genesee Valley/Belfast would keep their foot all the way down on the gas pedal for the last 40 minute half, scoring three additional goals to cushion their advantage, including a quick Mary Hamer tally in the first three minutes, and a second Southwick-Powers near the end of the game. Sandwiched in between — a Harley Proctor goal assisted by Whitney Young to help finish off the scoring.
All six goals were accounted for off 15 shots by the offense, while the defense pitched a three-shot shutout in turn against the Lady Wolves. The three shots were all set aside by Ashley Burrows in between the posts to record the Sectional-opening blank.
Up next, the Class D1 Semifinal round begins on Wednesday, as the second-seeds now prepare to take on No. 3 Naples for a trip to next weekend’s Finals on the line. The time and venue for the contest have yet to be announced.
No. 1 Fillmore 3, No. 8 Alfred-Almond 0
FILLMORE — The top-seeded Lady Eagles of Fillmore had to fight their way through and ward off No. 8 Alfred-Almond as best as they could through the first 40 minutes of play, Saturday night.
What wound up being a scoreless tie at the break, the hosts in green would have to come together and reassess the situation in front of them, with a different approach.
20 seconds into the back half, all of their questions would be answered.
In just over 10 minutes time, lightning would strike not once, nor twice, but three times for the host Lady Eagles, as Hope Russell, Grace Russell and Rachel Hatch all helped the electric offense find its rhythm in just a short period of time, turning what was a 0-0 tie on the board into a quick 3-0 lead, and eventual victory at the final horn over Alfred-Almond to claim their spot in the Semifinal round next week.
“The first half was a combination of Alfred-Almond playing disciplined defense and us settling a bit early, and not completing our offensive attack,” said Lady Eagles coach Jon Beardsley. “Their direct kick and one corner was all they got offensively, and we had the most shots we’ve had all season with 35, and it felt like 135. Mentally, we were challenged by solid defense and our lack of finishing early on, but we came out in the second half and scored 20 seconds in. Advancing is the key, and we did that.”
Alfred-Almond was given almost everything they were able to handle across all 80 minutes from the Fillmore (17-0) offense, including in the first 40 minutes where the host Lady Eagles were challenged by their defensive front in one end, and in the other, creating a bounty of chances against them on the attack.
No goals would find their way into the back of the net as a result, which would also result in Fillmore coming up with a new strategy entering the second half.
Not long after the opening kick, the ice was broken, as Fillmore went back to what they do best — striking fast, as Hope Russell scored her 44th goal of the season just 20 seconds in off a feed from Grace Russell to get them onto the board first. The momentum carried forward for the next seven minutes when the first of two more goals would come for the offense, as Grace connected with a goal of her own to branch the lead out.
With a 2-0 lead in hand, Grace would then hand out one final assist five minutes later to provide an additional piece of insurance onto the board, as Rachel Hatch found the back of the Alfred-Almond net with a tally of her own to finish off the win.
The three goals came off 35 total shots for the Lady Eagles, while the defense allowed just one to reach Preslee Miller, who recorded the shutout along the way.
Fillmore now moves into the Class D1 Semifinal round, where they will now face No. 5 Keshequa on Wednesday in hopes of punching their return ticket back to next weekend’s Finals to defend their title. Time and venue have yet to be determined.
Class D2 Quarterfinals
No. 1 Northstar 2, No. 8 Andover/Whitesville 1
ROCHESTER — It would all come down to the final 15 minutes of play. For some, that time can become quite excruciating, especially with a game-long, scoreless tie looking to be broken between No. 8 Andover/Whitesville and top-seeded Northstar, Saturday afternoon.
To say that the pressure was indeed on coming down the stretch, would be a massive understatement. But despite it, the offenses on both sides would kick into gear, breaking the tie with another tie to put on the board in a quick five-minute sequence. With overtime on the horizon, something had to give.
For the Lady Knights, they gave one of the biggest responses of them all.
In the final minute of regulation, the top-seeds would find their way back on top after originally breaking the ice 15 minutes prior, as Allie Skeval was the hero for Northstar to send them into the Class D2 Semifinal round after a hard-fought battle alongside Andover/Whitesville, taking the ultimate 2-1 decision at game’s end to force elimination.
“Our girls played extremely hard today. Effort has never been an issue with this group. We were missing some key players, but just as has been the case all year, other girls stepped up to do whatever was needed,” said Andover/Whitesville co-coach Aaron Rawady. “Some modified call-ups came in and gave us some great minutes, and our veterans took on some new roles to give us a chance. What a competitive game it turned out to be though, and you don’t usually see that in an 8-1 matchup. That speaks to the resiliency of the girls.”
After what was a back-and-forth battle for possession throughout the entirety of the first half, the pressure would continue to rise as time passed through the second half. With precious minutes and seconds coming off the board, the time to act in the second half would arrive.
It began with Northstar taking the game’s first lead with 15 minutes left to play, as Katelyn Demarest connected on the first goal of the afternoon on a solo rush into the Andover/Whitesville (2-12-3) zone. The response by the eight-seeds was just as quick as the go-ahead score the Lady Knights provided, as Kennedy Bledsoe found the back of the net four minutes later to tie the game at one, with Morrigan Hixon dishing along the humongous and crucial assist to set it up.
The 1-1 tie would hold all the way down to the wire with 60 seconds remaining, as Northstar found one last opening in the Andover/Whitesville defense for Allie Skeval to work her way through with the game-winner off a Grace Kearney feed to send the hosts in black and red into the Semifinal round.
The Bledsoe goal would be the only shot that Andover/Whitesville garnered in the game compared to the seven Northstar applied back the other way on offense of their own. In goal, Olivia Waters made five saves for the eight-seeds.
Andover/Whitesville’s season has now come to an end, as they wrap up their 2022 campaign with a record of 2-12-3 overall. The team will graduate five seniors at the end of the year, in Bledsoe, Gabbi Hall, Gabby Terhune, Aislinn Hamilton and Brynn Scholl.
“Despite the results this season gave us, I always believed we are a good team that can play with anyone,” said Rawady. “I am as proud of this team as any other I have coached. We can’t thank our seniors enough for all that they have given during their careers. Kennedy, Gabbi (Hall), Gabby (Terhune), Aislinn (Hamilton) and Brynn (Scholl) will be very tough to replace.”
No. 4 Hammondsport 2, No. 5 Friendship/Scio 2 (HAM wins 4-3 in PK to advance)
HAMMONDSPORT — The dreaded penalty kick round is a stage no team ever wants to encounter, especially with your entire season hanging in the balance as we begin entering the second season. On Saturday, No. 5 Friendship/Scio and No. 4 Hammondsport would ultimately work their way there, after both teams settled on a 2-2 tie after regulation play.
In the penalty kick session, both teams would go back and forth. But the decisive goal in the end after four rounds would belong to Hammondsport, as they were able to work their way through a 2-2 tie to record the 4-3 victory to earn advancement into the Class D2 Semifinal round next week.
“We played good enough to win, we just couldn’t find a way to get it into the net,” said Friendship/Scio co-coach Eric Weinman. “We came and played a great game, and the girls did everything that we asked of them. It was one of those games where it just doesn’t go your way. Both teams played really well in a great game, and you can’t really complain about that as long as you’re in it to win the game.”
Both teams were able to find their way into the back of their respective nets twice during regulation play, beginning with a 1-1 tie after the opening half, with Hammondsport taking the lead first on a direct kick from the foot of Sam Pratt, which bounced over Grace Drumm’s head in the Friendship/Scio goal and towards the netting for the opener at the 18:55 mark.
Friendship/Scio (3-11-3) was able to respond a very short time later, as Lexi Crossley tied the game at one going into the break by connecting with Claire Calhoun on the big play to create the newly-formed deadlock.
Not long into the second half, the Lady Lakers were able to garner the early edge yet again upon their arrival back onto the field, as Stefania Tears dug the ball loose in front of the Friendship/Scio goal in the midst of a mad scramble in front, firing it home for the lead.
It would hold until just past midway when the visitors in white would respond with yet another tie, as Morghyn Ross punctuated an emphatic capitalization off her free kick inside the box, tying the game at two for the remainder of regulation to force the penalty kick session.
Both teams would wind up going back and forth during the final session of the night, but would ultimately see the Lady Lakers record the game-winning goal they would need to work their way into the Semifinal round on Wednesday, ending Friendship/Scio’s season in the process.
Friendship/Scio would outshoot Hammondsport by an 8-4 total count, with Drumm making two saves in between the posts through what would be her final game of the season. The team will finish up their 2022 campaign with a record of 3-11-3 overall, as they graduate three seniors at the end of the year, in Calhoun, Katherine Lamberson and Logan Roberts.