Lady Eagles conquer Class D Far West Regional with complete performance against Section VI champion North Collins to clinch 2nd trip to State Final Four in 3 years; will face Section X’s Lisbon next weekend
Photo gallery and story by CHRIS BROOKS, sports editor, wellsvillesports.com
CALEDONIA — After the boys team was handed their very first loss of the season just 24 hours ago in West Seneca, the Lady Eagles of Fillmore were the last team standing on the pitch this Fall.
What was a flawless campaign saw them exit early in the Semifinal round against eventual State Final Four finalist Keshequa last year, but their journey through the course of this season has been headlined by garnering that feeling of sweet redemption. The Lady Eagles would pick up right where they left off, scoring another undefeated regular season that also included some record-breaking along the way.
This time, navigating past that Semifinal bump in the road to claim their third Section V title in the last five years. Now, a potential return to the State Final Four in Cortland themselves was now in plain sight at a time where the Lady Eagles have persevered by playing some of their most confident soccer to date.
They succinctly cruised through Sectional play with dominant shutout wins over C.G. Finney, Marion and Northstar. Now, the Lady Eagles were tasked with one more hurdle ahead of them — Section VI champion North Collins, who upset Ellicottville to lay claim on the Class D trophy.
In their hands, a ticket for the big State dance waiting to be punched. The time would come Saturday afternoon at Hamilton Field on the confines of Caledonia-Mumford. The home of champions, to determine what future lies ahead.
The Lady Eagles would have their answer right in the first 40 minutes of play: One of their most complete performances of the year.
From start to finish, Fillmore created an incredible offensive shockwave that reverberated all throughout the midfield, as they took complete command of everything they were able to possess against North Collins, while the defense kept their opposition pinned deep in their own zone in the same swing.
As a result, the Lady Eagles posted five big first half goals to set the tone immediately, laying the foundation down for what was a 6-0 shutout to capture the Class D Far West Regional title.
“We haven’t played that well as a whole group in a while,” said Lady Eagles coach Jon Beardsley. “We had some of those during the season, but we spent this week really focusing on getting numbers involved, being sophisticated in our attack involving two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight people because we can be one-dimentional at times, which works when you have some of the players we have. But the further along you advance and the more people you can get involved, it gets easier.”
The damage was done right in the inaugural stanza by the Lady Eagles (20-0). Although it took a few minutes during the game’s opening sequences to get their engine running, the Section V, Class D champs saw three different scorers find the back of the net, with their first coming nearly 10 minutes in from Mattie McCumiskey.
McCumiskey’s score came after the Lady Eagles applied their first burst of pressure against North Collins on a huge corner kick chance set up by Amelia Rose, which was connected by Hope Russell in front. The shot was initially saved out front, but it created a second chance rebound for McCumiskey to knock in next to the far post to break the ice.
After acquiring the game’s first lead to control, Fillmore continued to build from that point forward at a rapid pace, with Hope Russell finding the board the next two times in a span of three minutes. Her first marker stemmed off a perfectly placed kick up the middle from Grace Russell, as she shimmied past a pair of North Collins defenders and zoomed straight in on the goal, burying it home with ease to collect a 2-0 lead.
Her next came close to the halfway mark from Amelia Rose in the corner, as she belted the ball straight in towards the center of the cage with the perfect height and perfect speed to meet Russell’s head, propelling it home straight to the top shelf.
Then, a couple of breakaway chances for the Lady Eagles were capitalized with massive punctuation by Tenlee Miller, extending the Fillmore lead to four on a pass sent straight up the middle that saw an attempted clearance by the North Collins defense.
But a big block in the midst of it by Miller allowed her to control the momentum moving back up the field on the break, knocking her shot home to the far side.
The scoring concluded with Miller’s second of the game with five minutes to go, as she connected on another breakaway chance stemming off of North Collins’ first corner kick. As soon as the kick landed directly in the center of the Fillmore box, the Lady Eagles defense cleared the zone immediately, seeing two big passes up field ultimately work towards Miller for the score to give them a 5-0 halftime lead.
“Mattie had a goal today, Hope was just Hope like always and Tenlee Miller tore it up with a couple herself,” Beardsley said. “She has had a couple of moments where she’s gone out and proved herself in big ways. It was a great team effort, and we did a great job possessing the ball and working on the things that we’ve worked on all week. You talk about the way you play a game, and then they go out and execute it perfectly.”
To ensure that their trip to Cortland was all but firmly secure, the Lady Eagles saw Hope Russell finish off her hat trick just six minutes into the final 40 minute frame off of a pass from Amelia Rose at the top of the North Collins box, firing it directly to the back of the net without hesitation to give Fillmore all the room they needed to secure their victory and the Class D Far West Regional title that awaited them in the end.
The six Fillmore goals were scored off 25 total shots, as they outshot their opposition by a 25-2 count — both saves being stopped by Preslee Miller, who smashed a new program record with her 17th shutout of the campaign. The scores against North Collins also brings the team’s total to 132 on the season, which also broke another record in the school’s history books.
One that had stood since the 1998 season, when they recorded 130 in all.
Now, the efforts of the Lady Eagles have landed them in the season’s final circle — the State Final Four.
A place that not only his team as a collective, but his seniors have wanted to be since the beginning, according to the longtime soccer mastermind.
“It has been at the top of the list for the last four, five years but winning Section V isn’t easy,” said Beardsley. “In some ways, everything we do after that is more about relief and being joyful towards it while working even harder towards what we have to do. We were a little freer mentally this week, and after today with this group, especially these seniors, this is what they wanted. We’ve done it a couple times already, who knows this time? Maybe we can finally bring one home.”
Next weekend, Fillmore will take the grandest stage in the entire Empire State at Homer High School, where they will take on Section X’s Lisbon in the State Semifinal round for a chance to compete for a State title in the Finals, the following day.
First kick is slated for a 5 p.m. start on Saturday, November 11.