In fourth head-to-head of season, Elliott’s thunderous OT header sets up 1st ever Finals trip for No. 5 Rebels, outlast No. 8 Bolivar-Richburg with thrilling 1-0 shutout
By CHRIS BROOKS, managing editor, wellsvillesports.com
WELLSVILLE — Sitting at the upper echelon of the Class C2 bracket were two schools that are more than familiar enough with one another, no matter the sport.
Whether it’s basketball, baseball, the famed Hyphen Bowl on the gridiron, or even on the soccer pitch, Bolivar-Richburg and Cuba-Rushford is a local marquee matchup that always finds a way to fill the grandstands each and every time.
Did we mention that the action was worth the price of admission for those games, too?
After the seedings for this year’s Sectional tournament became official this past weekend, the Wolverines were awarded the No. 8, while the Rebels sat at No. 5, as the hunt for Fall glory went into full effect. When the playoff astrology aligned on paper, there was a very real possibility that the longtime rivals could carve a path through Section V’s Championship gauntlet and directly into the Semifinal round.
The end of the line being what could be the fourth and final act this season.
That became a reality after the Wolverines defeated No. 9 Wheatland-Chili and top-seeded Dundee/Bradford, and Rebels knocked off No. 12 Gananda and No. 4 Keshequa to create that all Allegany County showdown in Wellsville on Wednesday, where one team would make that one giant leap off the Semifinal stepping stone and towards the big stage.
Would you have wanted it any other way?
To say that the penultimate war between Bolivar-Richburg and Cuba-Rushford was on, would be a massive understatement. The balance of power tilted in several directions all through the night, as each team had their chance to control a fair portion of the game. The offenses attempted to create anything and everything they could, while the defenses in transition, firmly held one another at bay despite experiencing immense amounts of pressure.
As a direct result succeeding one of the more thrilling finishes to regulation in a game you’ll see, overtime was declared. Rebels head coach Rob Wight knew right from the start what exactly he was going to get from Bolivar-Richburg. His message to the team? Plain and simple: Go out and get it.
“Honestly, any time you’re on to Bolivar-Richburg whether it’s the regular season, playoffs, anything like this, you know exactly what you’re going to get,” he said. “I have nothing but respect for their seniors. Aydin (Sisson), Reiss and Cayden (Gaines) to name a few. They are a well-coached, hard-working team. We struggled tonight and we didn’t have our best 80 minutes, but we talked going into overtime about it only taking just one. We were just starting to turn it around, and now someone had to find it.”
While many of the spectators in attendance were tensely sitting ever so close to the edge of their seats in the grandstands, and around the outer skirt of the field behind the fencing, it took nearly three minutes off the first 15 minute overtime session to determine an outcome. The message that Wight had sent to his Rebels team was heard, and with it, a grand prize.
A corner kick. Not just a corner kick though, but a game-winning corner kick.
Last season it was Bolivar-Richburg that made their first ever trek to the Finals. Now, 2023 was the year for the Rebels of Cuba-Rushford to chart that same course, as Robert Childs launched as beautiful of a corner kick as you could imagine, straight out to the front of the Bolivar-Richburg net and through to the aperture next to the near post where a patient Jake Elliott awaited.
With it, he provided a thunderous header that beamed past David Abdo in the Wolverines net and in just 2:49 off the clock to send the Cuba-Rushford bench and their cheering section into immeasurable euphoria, as they captured a spot in Saturday night’s Class C2 Finals for the very first time ever with a 1-0 overtime victory over their longstanding rival, Bolivar-Richburg.
“I’ll say it. They paved the way last year. They got to the Finals for the first time, and it’s honestly the first time anyone around here, aside from Fillmore, has done that. It gave us a push in the right direction, and it let us know that we can do this and we can get over that hump. The hard work has been something special, but I can’t speak enough about the attitudes that the kids have had together, especially with us new coaches,” Wight said. “They have been so positive and they’ve bought into everything that we’ve taught them at practices. I can’t say enough.”
Wight continued with the assistance of his fellow assistants paying massive dividends over the course of the season to help get them where they now stand, noting that “My assistants, Coach (Brian) Stuhlmiller, Coach (Keeton) Sittig and Coach (Devin) Kinney, they have all helped keep the guys really focused on all the tasks so we can instill what we’re trying to do. We knew going in that we had a chance to do something special this year. With the kids coming over from Hinsdale to play with us, there was a lot of talent here to work with and do big things with. It’s even more special to see all his hard work pay off for them.”
It was a true, defensive tug-of-war that was put on full display across all 80 minutes of battle, with each team shifting the balance of power in the first half. There were plenty of runs up and down the field that were showcased, especially in the first 10 minutes of play. The Wolverines (9-9-1) formulated the bulk of the chances, including a setup from Aydin Sisson to Reiss Gaines that faltered wide of the Rebels cage.
The pressure remained on as time continued to pass, with Cuba-Rushford (11-7-1) having trouble clearing their own defensive zone, which allowed Bolivar-Richburg to send the ball back in on the offensive rush. Towards the end of the half however, the No. 5 seeds in blue twisted the momentum in their favor, with their best chance coming on a near 40-yard hike up the near sideline by Tanner Lewis, who made a few nifty maneuvers before letting his shot go on goal — a shot that was rifled just wide.
But with the momentum now in their favor going into the break, it was just a matter of tweaking their offensive approach, according to Wight.
“It was a little more different as opposed to the start of the game,” the first-year coach said. “We just had to keep tweaking things, widen our strikers instead of top and bottom. Everyone’s going to create chances, that’s how the game of soccer is. If you were going to play perfect and every touch was going to be great, you’d win the game 20-0. That’s not how it works. It’s all about creating and building off of those opportunities.”
The second half would see both teams return to even strength across the midfield, as the momentum continued to shift in each team’s favor all throughout. Past the midway mark, Bolivar-Richburg assumed control once again by pinning Cuba-Rushford deep, behind back-to-back corner kick opportunities for Brayden Zilker and a shot next to the goal post from Gary McDowell — all three shots the Rebels were able to stave off with 10 minutes remaining.
But then the pressure reached an all-time high right at the very end of the game for the Wolverines with perhaps the night’s best chance to end the game. With 30 seconds remaining, Zilker was granted another corner kick opportunity to blast out front. On the shot, the ball zipped straight into the direction of Alex Baron in net, allowing a leaping save to be made off the crossbar and then back down to the front of the goal where Reiss Gaines raced in to put the finishing touches on the chance.
But upon the save off the crossbar by Baron, it was ruled that the ball had hit the midsection of the uprights above the net, which was declared out of play. That would set up another last second corner kick for the Wolverines to take with 15 seconds left, again by Zilker, but the Rebels were able to clear before the final horn to close out regulation.
Overtime was now on the horizon, the trip to the Finals now hung in the balance with the golden goal on the line.
With nearly three minutes gone off the clock, that would be all the Rebels needed to end the game on their terms. From the near corner, Robert Childs pulverized a perfect kick to the front of the Bolivar-Richburg net, sailing over top and to a bare opening where Jake Elliott raced in to land the game-winning shot straight off his cranium, heading it shortside into the Wolverines net to send the Rebels to their first-ever Finals this weekend after one of the most thrilling battles of the season.
“It was right on this field when we changed things up. Robert scored on a corner kick against Wellsville, and from that point, we were going to let him handle the corners and let him fly them to the back post so we can crowd the box and see what we can do from there,” said Wight. “Bolivar-Richburg did a great job shutting him down for the most part, but in a time where it mattered the most, he delivered. The guys know exactly what was at stake since the beginning, as do the JV kids we pulled up. I cannot thank everyone enough.”
Wolverines head coach Mike Zilker reflected on his team’s performance, saying that “I thought the boys played very well. We talked about how we wanted to walk off the field, win or lose, knowing that we have everything we had, and we did. Our boys had a game plan, and they almost completed it. We knew it was going to be a dogfight, and we did a great job handling the pressure of the moment. Hats off to them, they played a heck of a game and we wish them all the best of luck in the Finals.”
It was a fairly even balance across the board for both offenses on the pitch, as Bolivar-Richburg came away with a narrow 13-12 advantage in the shot department over the Rebels. In goal, the win was Baron’s to claim, as he made all 13 saves to record the shutout.
On the other end, Abdo recorded 11 saves for the Wolverines, who now see their 2023 campaign come to a close with a record of 9-9-1 overall. The team will say goodbye to eight seniors in Abdo, Reiss Gaines, Cayden Gaines, Aydin Sisson, James Margeson, Caden Giardini, Landen Arnold and Caleb Miller.
As for the Rebels, they now enter a realm of unfamiliarity for the very first time in the program’s history. That being the Class C2 Finals, as they now vie for the Section’s grand prize on Saturday at a time and venue to be determined. Their opponent? — No. 2 Geneseo, a team that Wight knows very well during his time as a player back at the turn of the decade when they last met back in the 2010 and 2011 seasons in the Semifinal round.
Now, he will face them as the program’s coach, as he remains optimistic at the challenge that now lies ahead for his Rebels squad.
“I can tell you from personal experience, the only times we went to the Semifinals, Geneseo knocked us out both times,” he said. “We know they have an elite soccer program up there with the Avons and the Fillmores. We’re a tough out, and we’re an organized group that knows what to do with the ball. We have two days to prep and see what Saturday brings. I’m optimistic
Geneseo downs Kendall, 3-1
By Chris Metcalf/LCAA’S FINEST
That best describes the Geneseo boys’ 3-1 victory over Kendall in Class C2 semifinal action Wednesday in Caledonia.
Geneseo scored two quick goals as they advanced into Saturday’s sectional finals.
The first goal came when Oren Ray scored eight minutes into the game after a corner kick from Cooper Warner found a head ball back to Ray, who shielded the Kendall defender and ripped a shot into the net for the 1-0 advantage, Ray’s sixth goal of the season.
Samuel Chanler netted his goal off a corner kick from Adam Niedermaier that pushed the lead to 2-0.
It was Chanler’s 11th goal of the year.
Geneseo led 2-0 at the intermission.
Geneseo would make it 3-0 early in the second half when Warner netted his eighth goal of the season.
Kendall would eventually cut the deficit to 3-1 with 30 minutes left but they would get no closer.
Kendall finished 9-9-1.
Geneseo improved to 14-3-1 on the season.
They will take on Cuba-Rushford for the Class C2 title Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at Avon HS.
“The boys have played so great this season, they came right out and worked from the kickoff,” Geneseo coach Chris Masters said. “They had control of the game and gave Kendall all they could handle. Credit to Kendall when we got up they did not quit and made us work for the last 30 minutes after they scored. Our team is tough to phase and they just kept playing hard all the way to the final horn. So proud of this team and I really want to see them bring home the block Saturday. These kids have been waiting for this moment and you better believe we will be ready to go.”
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Fillmore blanks Marion, GV/Belfast falls to Northstar’s second half surge in D Semifinals
WARSAW — While the action began to unfold in Wellsville, up north in Warsaw, two more of the County’s teams left standing on the pitch looked to navigate their paths to the Finals themselves, as Genesee Valley/Belfast and Fillmore both took the trip to partake in a high stakes challenge in the Class D Semifinal round.
Up first were the Genesee Valley/Belfast ladies, as they battled toe-to-toe with No. 2 Northstar across a first half that saw limited chances between both clubs arise. But opportunities would come soon after in the last 40 minutes of play, when the No. 3 seeds came out red hot to put the Lady Knights off balance.
But as time went on, Northstar was able to shake it off and in turn, they put on some pressure of their own. As a result, the Lady Knights were rewarded for their efforts, as they provided a second half surge against Genesee Valley/Belfast with all three of the game’s goals in their possession, forcing elimination while claiming a spot in this weekend’s Class D Finals in one foul swoop in Warsaw by a 3-0 count, Wednesday night.
“It was a tough second half,” GV/Belfast co-coach Lisa Scott-Schneider said. “I think we played more possession, but this game was a matter of capitalizing on your opportunities. They did and we did not. We came out on fire in the second half, and we just could not find a way to put it in the back of the net. Northstar is a skilled team and very good. We battled the best we could, but luck was not on our side.”
Out of the three goals scored by the Lady Knights, two of them came in the last 10 minutes of play to cement their advantage against Genesee Valley/Belfast (14-4-1), with their first coming over 10 minutes into the second half to break a first half defensive deadlock after the break. Katelyn Demarest supplied the first two markers, with the first off a feed from Allie Skevel to record the 1-0 lead.
The lead would hold across another defensive battle that settled in, leading up to Northstar’s humongous insurance goal from Damarest with 8:06 left to play. The Lady Knights would finish off the win behind Grace Kearney’s score with under three minutes left to play, connecting with Sevol on the score to wrap up a nine-shot night on offense.
Northstar would outshoot Genesee Valley/Belfast by a 9-5 total count.
In goal, Kimme Ball stopped six shots in between the posts for the No. 3 seeds. The 2023 campaign wraps up for Genesee Valley/Belfast with a record of 14-4-1 overall. The team will bid farewell to four of their seniors including Ball, as she joins Mary Hamer, Abby Sullivan and Morgan Bentley.
“Duane (Powers) and I would like to thank our seniors Kimme, Mary, Abby and Morgan for a great year for us,” Scott-Schneider said. “We are not hanging our heads, although we are sad. Many teams aren’t 14-4-1 on the year. We had some great wins this year, especially during our trip to Albany where we beat two teams from Section II and made a whole lot of memories along the way.”
To wrap up the night, the top-seeded Lady Eagles of Fillmore were on deck.
The only thing on the top of their minds entering their Semifinal bout with No. 5 Marion, was redemption after an overtime defeat to the hands of eventual State Final Four Finalist Keshequa in last season’s Semifinal round.
There were plenty of chances to be had for the Lady Eagles, including a massive penalty kick opportunity for Hope Russell. But as the chances were piling up against the Lady Black Knights, so was the pressure that came with it, as it eventually boiled over with a 1-0 lead to control at the break.
Upon their return to the pitch, Fillmore picked up right where they left off with a goal just two minutes into the second half before sealing their lead permanently with their last in the final 10 minutes, as they hurdled their way past the Semifinals and into the Class D title game this weekend with a 3-0 shutout.
“I thought mentally, we were off and I take blame for that. We kept filling our backpacks with rocks,” said Lady Eagles coach Jon Beardsley. “Marion played tough defense, but we missed a handful of chances in the first half. We just have to be better mentally in that situation. I will say we kept working hard and we controlled everything, and we won 3-0. I suppose we should feel pretty good about that. I thought we improved as the game went on. Last year’s Semifinal loss was haunting us, so we got over the hurdle. I saw some relief in the girls after the game, and I hope tonight ignites them. They have the ability to get it done, but we have to be ready to roll.”
Through a chance-filled first half for the Lady Eagles (18-0), they were able to weave their way through to the back of the net with the game’s first marker right past the midway mark from Hope Russell, as she connected off a pass from Rachel Hatch on the way into the Marion zone and finished the play with ease to garner the first advantage of the game.
The lead would remain glued in place going into the break, as Fillmore continued to hold the Lady Black Knights at bay behind a strong display of defense, allowing just two shots in all to reach Preslee Miller in between the posts — both of which, saved to record the shutout.
Two minutes removed from the second half’s kick at midfield, the Lady Eagles saw their second of three different scorers find the back of the Marion net, as Oakley Frazier knocked home the team’s second score off a pass sent along by Delaney Hillman.
The advantage for Fillmore was built upon one last time in the final 10 minutes of play, when the victory was sealed up for good with Grace Russell’s assistance, as she scored off an indirect kick inside the Marion box set up by Hope Russell.
The three goals for the top-seeds stemmed from within a 20-shot outburst against the Lady Black Knights, as Fillmore outshot Marion by a 20-2 count.
The victory for the Lady Eagles now sends them back to the Finals this weekend, as they now look to finish the job while taking aim at their second championship in the last four years, taking on No. 2 Northstar for all the marbles in the Class D Championship on Saturday.
Time and venue for the battle is yet to be determined.
The winner will clinch an immediate berth into the Class D Far West Regional at Caledonia-Mumford, the following weekend.
Class D1 First Round
No. 2 Cuba-Rushford 3, No. 15 Keshequa 0
CUBA — The Lady Rebels of Cuba-Rushford are riding high after a dominant regular season saw them become Allegany County champions in undefeated fashion. As the second season quickly approached, the hope was to carry all momentum they had built and use as much as they could to start their Sectional journey strong.
On Wednesday, the No. 2 seeds in Class D1 went on and did just that on all angles of the floor, as the Lady Rebels dominated all three sets of action against No. 15 Keshequa in the Wighthouse with a 3-0 straight-set victory, taking the 25-12, 25-4, 25-10 decision into the Quarterfinal round this weekend.
Leading the charge for the Lady Rebels (14-2) was Lauren O’Keefe, who provided an outstanding night of service from the back line, garnering nine aces to pair with seven strong kills and a pair of digs. Following up was Raegan Poore, who chipped in with four kills, one helper, one dig and one block at the front. Setter Kendall Tompkins handed out 18 helpers to couple alongside five more kills on the attack, three aces and a denial.
Up next in the Class D1 Quarterfinals will be a meeting with No. 7 Notre Dame-Batavia right back on their home floor, as the Lady Rebels battle the visiting Lady Irish at 6 p.m. on Friday.
No. 5 Bolivar-Richburg 3, No. 12 Kendall 0
FILLMORE — A strong night of offense from Carmen Crowley, and a phenomenal tenure of service from Brena Walp allowed the fifth-seeded Lady Wolverines of Bolivar-Richburg to start their Sectional trek on the biggest of footsteps Wednesday night in Fillmore, as they strolled past No. 12 Kendall with ease in a straight-set, 25-9, 25-16, 25-23 decision to claim their spot in the Quarterfinal round this weekend.
Crowley has been one of Bolivar-Richburg’s (11-4) biggest playmakers on the frontlines all season long, proving it once more with another great night of offense up front, garnering 13 kills to pair with a duo of aces. Walp followed behind with an exceptional tenure at the service line, dishing out 14 aces whilst recording 29 service points.
Jayna Thomas added in nine more service points, while Kylee Whiting kept the ball off the floor with five digs to round off the Bolivar-Richburg scoring.
The Lady Wolverines are now on the road Friday night to partake in Class D1 Quarterfinal action, as they now prepare for a visit to No. 4 Perry in a first serve time that is yet to be determined.
Class D2 First Round
No. 7 Houghton Academy 3, No. 10 Hammondsport 0
HOUGHTON — The Lady Panthers of Houghton Academy used a strong start to their game against No. 10 Hammondsport on Wednesday, and built on it every step of the way, as the No. 7 seeds began their search for glory in the Class D2 bracket in straight-set sweeping fashion by claiming the 25-15, 25-10, 25-7 decision.
The Lady Panthers (9-8) were propelled by a phenomenal night of service from Bella Stevens, Ellie Brubaker and Abby Reitnour. Stevens led the way on the offensive attack by garnering six big aces to pair with a trio of kills. Behind her was Abby Reitnour on the defense, keeping the ball off the floor with five big digs to pair with three kills and two aces.
Rounding off was the team’s setter, Ellie Brubaker, who chipped in with nine helpers to go with five more aces from the service line and two digs.
Houghton Academy will now hit the road Friday night, as they prepare for a 6 p.m. visit to No. 2 Marion in the Class D2 Quarterfinal round.
No. 6 Fillmore 3, No. 11 Hinsdale 0
FILLMORE — After a regular season filled with ups and downs like a rollercoaster ride, the No. 6 Lady Eagles of Fillmore will look to prime up a big run through the Class D2 field. The start they would muster against No. 11 Hinsdale on their home floor Wednesday would be just what the doctor ordered, as they strolled towards straight-set triumph by a 25-18, 25-13, 25-8 count over the Lady Bobcats inside The Rock.
Paving the way towards Fillmore’s (10-9) strong start to their second season was Jenna Austin, as she posted a team-leading nine aces from the service line to go with a pair of kills on the attack. Following closely behind was Mya Keeler, who chipped in with three kills of her own.
Statistics for the Lady Bobcats were not made available to report upon publication. Hinsdale’s 2023 season is now officially history, as they finish with a record of 1-17 overall.
On Friday, the Lady Eagles now advance into the Class D2 Quarterfinal stage, where they now hit the road for a 6 p.m. visit to the Lady Lancers of Elba.
No. 8 Lyndonville 3, No. 9 Genesee Valley/Belfast 0
PAVILION — It was not easy by any means, but No. 8 Lyndonville was able to hang on after a tough challenge that No. 9 Genesee Valley/Belfast brought to the table on Wednesday, as the Lady Tigers went on to bring out the brooms in Pavilion with a straight-set win over their opposition by a 25-21, 25-10, 25-17 count.
Statistics for Genesee Valley/Belfast were not made available to report upon publication.
The season is now over for Genesee Valley/Belfast, as they wrap up with a record of 4-15 overall.