November 1, 2008
Purple Tigers repeat as champs
Cottone, Gebhardt goals topple J-D in Class A final
Photos by Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Casey Marks of Cortland High heads the ball upfield against Jamesville-DeWitt during Friday’s Class A title game at Chittenango. CHS defended its title with a 2-0 victory.
CHITTTENANGO — As a defensive player for the top-seeded Cortland High girls’ soccer team, Caitlin Cottone isn’t one of the main scoring threats. You wouldn’t have known that, though, if you were at Friday night’s Section 3 Class A championship game at Chittenango High.
Cottone’s 35-yard lob into the box, seconds after senior midfielder Casey Marks had hit the crossbar with a shot, went over the outstretched arms of Jamesville-DeWitt goalkeeper Sarah Gianni and under the crossbar 6:36 before halftime for the only goal the defending champions would need in what ended up a 2-0 win. The score came toward the end of a half which had seen the Purple Tigers come up empty on a number of scoring chances.
“I had no clue it was going in,” the senior said of her second goal of the season as a clutch of CHS fans chanted ‘Back-to-back” at their 17-4 team from the purple-tinged stands behind the bench. “I put it in the box hoping we could make something of it, and when it went in my jaw dropped. I scored in the sectional championship game my senior year! That was great!”
“The first goal really helped boost the girls’ confidence,” Cortland coach Abbey Albright said. “It really got them in the winning mode and allowed them to step up. J-D was really packing in their defenders, especially in the box, making it difficult for our attackers to get off a solid shot.
“I wasn’t concerned that the girls would get frustrated during the first half when we had some scoring opportunities that we couldn’t put away, but I also didn’t want them to play scared. We needed to relax a little and just play our game. When we scored, it opened up more opportunities for us on the attacking end.”
The winners’ second goal also came from a player not known for her scoring, as junior forward Maya Gebhardt scored for the first time this season after controlling a loose ball on the right side, and scoring to the opposite side.
“Elle DePerno took a shot, and I got the rebound off it,” Gebhardt said, referring to the junior midfielder for CHS. “I can’t tell you how exciting it is to score my first goal in sectionals.”
Regardless of where Cortland’s offense came from, the defense was steady as usual. It was the Purple Tigers’ 12th shutout of the season and the eight during their current 10-game winning streak while having scored 33 goals in that span. In three sectional games they outscored their opponents 13-1, with Friday’s game the closest.
“We connect so much,” junior keeper Hannah Polanko-Baker said in explaining the success she and the CHS defense have had. “We have what is probably one of the closest teams, and we all love each other.”
Polanko-Baker made one save in the game to 10 for Gianni as the Purple Tigers rolled up a 25-7 shot advantage.
CORTLAND, RANKED 16th in the state among Class A teams, had beaten J-D twice already this season in OHSL Freedom Division play by scores of 3-1 on the road Sept. 16 and 3-0 at home Oct. 10. “They came out tougher at first,” Gebhardt said. “Then we got our groove back and pushed things. They were very strong, but then we came out stronger. Intensity is what helps us win.”
“J-D played hard,” Cottone said. “They gave it to us, and played a great game.”
“During practice this week the girls knew that it would be a difficult but possible task to beat J-D for a third time this season. The veterans on the team really made it clear that we couldn’t think that this game would be easy,” she added. “In every game, we monitor the play of the other team and adjust. Sure, it’s nice to know things about your opponent, especially after having played against them yourself. But it also means that they have had time to adjust to your style of play and can try to take advantage of any weaknesses.”
“We knew who their threats were and tried to match up the best we could, then they get goals from other players,” said Red Rams coach Hayley Nies, smiling and shaking her head after her sixth-seeded team finished the season at 12-8-1. “They have great weapons and are solid. They played a great game. I think my girls are going to take a lot from this game. They’re a great bunch of kids and we only lose four seniors. We should be a team to contend with next year.”
It was the third straight sectional finals appearance for Cortland, which Albright noted was a plus.
“I believe the experience of having played in the sectional finals does help,” Albright said. “There are more fans than at a regular-season game, a little more pressure and a lot more of a reward. The girls were nervous, but it was more of an excited nervous. Seven members of this team were on the varsity squad in 2006 when we lost in the finals (2-1 to Homer in overtime), while 11 members were on last year’s championship squad (4-0 winners over Whitesboro for the crown).
“Before the game our team walked onto the turf past the J-D players. Their whole team stopped talking and looked at our players,” she added. “That in itself gave our team some confidence from the beginning. Our girls knew what it felt like to be in a sectional final game.”
And does winning it all the second time around feel as good as the first time?
“It feels exactly the same, just as good,” Polanko-Baker said happily. “It never gets old.”
COTTONE, HOPPING on one foot and then the other, agreed. “It’s amazing,” she said. “This is kind of like we just won it for the first time. I’m still bouncing; I can’t stop.”
“This year’s win was just as sweet as last year’s,” Albright said. “Each year had its own road that had to be taken in order to be able to hold the sectional banner. There are similarities between the seasons, but also many differences. It is just a great feeling of success, and I am so happy and proud for all of the girls.”
The win puts Cortland in the state regionals Tuesday back at Chittenango against Section 2 champion Burnt Hills, at 14-5-2 the fifth-ranked Class A team in the state. The contest is set for a 3 p.m. start. The Spartans won their fourth straight Section 2 Class A championship Friday night, 1-0 over 17th-ranked Averill Park.
Last fall, the Purple Tigers tied Burnt Hills 3-3 after a long trip to Broadalbin-Perth but were eliminated from the state tournament when they lost in penalty kicks 4-2.
“It’s definitely a plus,” Gebhardt said of playing the regional in familiar territory. “Hopefully we’re going to show them who’s boss.”
“We know how to play here,” Cottone said. “And the long ride is kind of tough.”
CORTLAND’S MARKS and sisters Emily and Aubrey VanGorder (senior back and junior forward, respectively) were named to the All-Section 3 Class A team, which was announced prior to the contest. This is the second straight year that Marks has made the elite squad.
J-D junior midfielder Taylor Nies (also for the second year in a row) and junior back Natalie Mannion also made the sectional A squad, as did Carthage junior goalie Sarah Johnson, backs Allyson Rossi (junior) from East Syracuse-Minoa and Michelle Peck (senior) from Phoenix, midfielders Gabby Ariola (senior) from Mexico, Leah Phillips (junior) from Fulton, Emelia Failing (senior) from Whitesboro and Amy Sleeper (senior) from New Hartford.
The honored forwards also included seniors Teddi Filiatrault from Indian River, Emily Smith from Chittenango and Shelley Bateman from Fulton and Chittenango junior Brittany Tirabassi.
Rossi, Ariola, Bateman and Tirabassi were all also honored for the second year in a row.
Cortland 2, Jamesville-DeWitt 0
Jamesville-DeWitt 0 0 — 0
Cortland 1 1 — 2
Goals-Assists: Cortland- Caitlin Cottone 1-0, Maya Gebhardt 1-0, Elle DePerno 0-1
Shots: Cortland 25, Jamesville-DeWitt 7
Corner kicks: Cortland 5, Jamesville-DeWitt 1
Saves: Sarah Gianni (J-D) 10, Hannah Polanko-Baker (C) 1
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