A tearful Grace Russell asks, “Is this real?” as the Fillmore Eagles look to win a title the boys’ team earned in 2022
By JOHN ANDERSON
HOMER — It was the battle of elite soccer teams everyone expected in front of a packed stadium at Homer High School on Saturday night when 19-1 Lisbon, the Section X champions took on the 20-0 Section V champions from Fillmore.
The Lisbon defense was not going to let Fillmore pass through them and score easy goals, and it worked. But the Fillmore midfield and defense dominated, earning the Eagles offensive chances in a 4-1 victory.
With the win, Fillmore (21-1) takes on Section III champion Cincinnatus 20-0-2 for the NYSPHSAA Class D State Championship for girls’ soccer today at 12:30 p.m. at the turf complex at Homer High School.
The Fillmore girls’ program has been a multi-Section V champion over the years and the name of the school is now being mentioned in the same breath as other elite programs over the past three decades. The Fillmore boys’ team helped the cause with the state championship win last year and another title this year.
Lisbon had a big opportunity minutes into the game on a corner kick, but the ball went high of the goal.
Enter Fillmore senior Amelia Rose.
Her first corner kick was a line drive with 33:30 left the Hope Russell quickly put int he back of the net for a 1-0 lead.
Fillmore continues the pressure and Lisbon kept keeping the ball from Fillmore’s offense to get off a shot, but the corner kicks kept piling up.
With 28:36 left in the first half, Rose lifted on across the goal where Grace Russell buried it for a 2-0 lead.
During the regular season, Fillmore was able to dominate with sharp passed through the midfield to Hope or Grace Russell for goals. It’s why they call soccer the “Beautiful Game.” But coach Jon Beardsley’s team made the adjustment and widened the field.
Grace Russell then went outside and sent a beautiful pass to the middle where freshman Mylee Miller was able to put the ball in the net for a 3-0 Fillmore lead with 11:34 left in the half.
Miller’s sister, senior goalie Preslee Miller, kept Lisbon off the board with a first-half shutout.
Lisbon made adjustments at the half and came out with the same intensity they started the game with.
Just 4:07 into the half, Lisbon was able to send a ball just past Preslee Miller who had the presence of mind to slightly hook the player on her way to the net. That cause the kick in front of a wide open net from three feet away to go just wide left.
The referee correctly called a penalty kick, and because the arm was hooked for that brief second, Miller was given a yellow card and had to come off for the PK.
Her sister Preslee went in the goal and anticipated the shot going right, but Lisbon senior Leah Warren crushed the ball lower right just inside the post to cut the lead to 3-1.
Lisbon continued the pressure and their fan base was alive as the half wore on.
That’s when Hope and Grace Russell went to work. Grace blew past two defenders and raced toward the goal and sent a perfect pass to Hope Russell for the goal and a 4-1 lead that effectively ended the game.
For Hope Russell, it was her 70th goal on the season.
Preslee Miller made several other saved and finished with seven saves. Lisbon’s Averee Boucher made six saves, as the Knights finish 19-2-0.
“It’s super exciting (that we are in the state finals). The last 10 seconds I was in tears, I was like, ‘Is this real?’ It hasn’t sunk in and it probably won’t until the game started tomorrow, it just doesn’t feel real yet,” Grace Russell said.
For senior defender Rachel Hatch, she is trying to take these game in as regular soccer games, then celebrate and reflect on making history when it’s over.
“It just feels like another soccer game to me, I know it’s the state finals, but I’m playing like it’s just another game,” Hatch said. “When Lisbon had their first corner kick made me a little weary and realized, “Oh, they are going to be a little more challenging than I thought they were going to be,’ but we came back with so much energy. We said, ‘It’s not going to happen,’ and we had four corner kicks and scored two goals. We had a lot of positive energy. Before the game, we knew there would be adversity and said we have to stay positive.”
Russell added, “I think we came out in the second half positive, but they challenged us with their speed and strength and we were tired and that hit us hard. But we started with us, we didn’t give up and that’s what helped us.”
Hatch had help on defense and the midfield from senior Ryleigh Goodliff, sophomore Mattie McCumiskey, senior Delaney Hillman and senior Oaklee Frasier.
Senior Allie Mills made adjustments and dropped back to help control the midfield at times while eighth-grader Tenlee Miller gave the Eagles some outstanding minutes as well.
Senior Kylee Ellsworth who also had a solid game in the midfield was honored with the New York State Sportsmanship Award during a post-game ceremony.
Coach Beardsley said, “The first five to 10 minutes of a state semi-final game is nerve-racking and you’re not human if you don’t feel it! The defense was composed for us during the game while the offense was figuring out what to get done.”
As for all the corners, Beardsley joked, “I know they are getting sick of me yelling ‘end line, end line, end line,’ but we got three goals in the first half because we loved the end line. We executived a game plan and stopped their counter attack.”
In the second half, Beardsley said Lisbon counter-attacked and picked off passes.
“They have some girls with wheels and we have some girls with wheels,” he said.
Going into the state finals, he said “You get to this point, you expect a game. Cincinnatus was here last year, they are a strong program and so are we. Hopefully it’s our day and we are happy for the opportunity to be here.”
Cincinnatus won, 6-0 over Section II champion Fort Ann.
Cassia Schuyler (#4) had a strong game, scoring four goals for the Lions. Also for the Lions, #2 Lucy Finch had a goal assisted by #21 Jocelyn Turshman.
Peyton Stith (#12) and Ava Larrabee (#15) did a nice job setting up goals with assists and Mandi Waltz (#3) does a great job getting to the goal as well. Goalie Sidney Glover had the shutout for Cincinnatus.
On the National Federation of High School Sports Broadcast (NHFS.com), John Anderson had the play-by-play of both games with producer Brian Wahl and Blake Rivera and Brianna Freeman on the camera.
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