November 3 , 2007


Rip-roaring time for Purple Tigers

Three Muka goals and stingy defense gives CHS first soccer title


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Cortland High’s Caitlin Stevens (20), Casey Marks (6)  and Natalie Muka (4) celebrate at midfield after defeating the Whitesboro Warriors for the Section 3 Class A Soccer Championship on Friday at SUNY Cortland Athletic Complex.

Staff Writer

All the noise and commotion at around 9 p.m. Friday in downtown Cortland — the screaming girls hanging out of the school bus, the car horns, the police escort with flashing lights, and the rest — is easily explainable.
Champions, coming through.
The second-seeded Cortland High girls’ soccer team took care of business and then some against No. 4 Whitesboro in the Section 3 Class A championship game at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex’s Red (football) Field, totally dominating the Warriors in a 4-0 victory for the program’s first-ever sectional championship. The Purple Tigers were led by senior forward Natalie Muka’s second three-goal performance in three post-season contests.
And “dominate” is the key word, as Coach Abbey Albright’s squad, the 17th-ranked Class A team in the state, piled up a 22-4 shot advantage in the contest. That included a 13-2 edge in the first half.
Senior goalie Katie Apley made two saves before yielding to sophomore Hannah Polanko-Baker with 13:36 left. She in turn was replaced by junior Taylor Hewes with 4:50 remaining, the two underclassmen not called on to make any saves as CHS notched its third shutout in as many post-season contests. The Purple Tigers — now 16-5 on the season — had beaten East Syracuse-Minoa 4-0 in the quarterfinals and Carthage 2-0 in the semis.
“We knew that Whitesboro was going to try to pound it up the middle on the attack as much as they could, and focused on that a lot in practice the last two days,” said Albright, Whitesboro having rallied to beat top-seed Homer 4-3 in the second sudden death overtime period this past Tuesday. “The way our defense has been playing, we knew we were solid in the back and could negate that.
“We started out strong — we also talked about dribbling and playing to feet — got into their mode of playing in the air for while but then settled back into playing our game and continued to move offensively.”
The University of Massachusetts-bound Muka, who now has a team-high 30 goals on the season, gave the Purple Tigers the only score they’d need 12:48 into the first half. She took a pass from senior midfielder Amanda Cheetham on the near right side 15 yards out and sent a low shot inside the far post after Warrior freshman keeper Rachel Edgin came out to cut down the angle.
IT WASN’T UNTIL  7:20 remained in the first half that Whitesboro, which finished at 13-6-2, got off its first shot on goal, and it resulted in a highlight-film defensive play. Senior defender Meghan Barry headed the ball toward an open net from deep on the right side, with Apley down, and it looked like the game was tied until Cortland junior defender Caitlin Cottone appeared. Cottone clearing the ball out of harm’s way just before it crossed the goal line.
“Caitlin is a very smart back,” Albright said. “As soon as the ball got past Katie, I knew Caitlin would come up with it. And that was their one real good chance. Our defense has been very solid (in sectionals). They read each other well, and know when to step and slide over.”
Junior midfielder Casey Marks made it 2-0 for the Purple Tigers 3:03 before halftime when she collected a corner kick from the right side by fellow junior midfielder Jenna Phelps and, from 10 yards out on the right side, also found the lower left corner.
Muka, who, fittingly, was honored at halftime, along with Marks, as a member of the All-Section 3 Class A team, converted a pass from sophomore forward Aubrey VanGorder from close range on the right side just 1:45 into the second half. She then closed out the scoring from 10 yards out on the other side, unassisted, with 22:30 remaining.
From that point on, both coaches substituted freely, the issue no longer in doubt.
“Those were my three biggest goals of the season; I can’t stop smiling,” Muka said, indeed grinning from ear-to-ear after all of the post-season accolades had been presented and accepted. “The second one stands out. (Junior forward) Katherine Hunsberger started it off getting the ball to Aubrey, and then I got the ball and put it away, finishing off their work. It was a team effort; they all were. Everyone pulled through tonight.
“It gave us confidence to get the lead, but we knew they had come back against Homer (from a 3-1 deficit) and knew we had to stay intense, to pick it up to insure the sweet victory,” she added.
“I GOT A REAL good ball from Jenna and was in the right spot,” Marks said of her 11th goal of the season. “It was a really good feeling to go up 2-0, but that’s the scariest score to be ahead by so we knew we couldn’t stop and had to keep going. As a team we’re all friends, and we knew that if we lost, it was over.”
“Do whatever it takes — that’s our motto,” Apley said. “We have a very strong defense with our Flat-Back Four formation, which works so well. I wasn’t comfortable at 3-0, knowing that they’d come back against Homer. We still had to play our game.”
Whitesboro, on the other hand, didn’t come close to playing its game.
“We didn’t have much tonight,” Warriors coach Art Brown said. “We had a big win on Tuesday, but didn’t seem to come back together and play very well. We came out flat, even though it was a huge game.
“I think Cortland deserves all the credit, and I don’t want to take anything away from them; they played superbly. They beat us to every ball, and passed and controlled the ball better. We didn’t get the job done.”
“I think our center midfield did a nice job, especially in the second half, of dribbling the ball through, forcing the defense to step and giving Natalie more space,” Albright said.
Cortland had lost last year’s Class A championship game 2-1 in overtime to Homer, also at the Stadium Complex (albeit on the other side of the grandstand). That was a plus this time around according to Albright.
“I think the fact that the girls had a little more experience and knew what it feels like to play at this level helped,” she said. “It’s also nice when you get to play in your home town.”
SINCE TAKING THE reins of the CHS squad last season from Bob Applegate, who did a good job of laying the foundation for success, Albright has led the Purple Tigers to a 32-9-1 record, two sectional Class A Final berths and this year’s championship, the program’s first ever.
“The girls work hard in the off-season,” she said in explaining the success she and the team have enjoyed. “They have a lot of opportunities throughout the year to play with one another, which helps them.
“This group, soccer-wise, is more mature than two years ago,” she added, CHS scoring its first ever sectional win in 2005 by beating Fulton 2-1 in overtime before losing in the second round. “With the experience of a few sectional games under their belts, they can just go out and play now.”
The Purple Tigers will next see action on Tuesday, when they face Section 2 Class A champion Burnt Hills in a 6 p.m. state regional contest at Broadalbin-Perth High School’s Patriot Field. The young Spartans, 8-10-2 after an injury-filled fall, beat Scotia 2-0 Friday at that same site for their 22nd sectional title in the past 25 years.
The winner of that game will face Section 10 champion Massena a week from today on a field in its home section for a spot in the state semifinals at 10 a.m. Nov. 16 at Tompkins Cortland CC (where Cortland beat ES-M last week to open its post-season). The state championship game is slated for 9:30 a.m. Nov. 17 back at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex.
IN ADDITION to Muka and Marks, other all-Section 3 Class A players honored at halftime of Friday’s contest were senior midfielder Kaylee Benz and senior forward Erika Trivisonno from Homer; Whitesboro’s Barry and Alyssa Upson, both senior backs; Fulton senior goalie Kristen Kush and junior midfielder Michelle Bateman; Chittenango forwards Emily Smith (junior) and Brittany Tirabassi (sophomore); East Syracuse-Minoa seniors Allyson Rossi (back) and Alicia Vasiloff (forward); Jamesville-DeWitt senior back Emma Loewy and sophomore midfielder Tori Nies; Carthage senior back Colleen DeRonda, Oneida senior back Emma Adams and Mexico junior midfielder Gabby Ariola.




Marathon rallies to capture crown

Staff Writer

VESTAL — After the first 30 minutes of action, Marathon Central girls found themselves in unfamiliar territory.
The Olympians were being outplayed and trailed 1-0 in the Section 4 Class C Field Hockey Championship Game at Dick Hoover Stadium in Vestal. That was when veteran coach Karen Funk drew on her 34 years of experience and lit the fire under her team.
The top-seeded Olympians came out flying in the second half, scoring twice in the first six minutes to grab a 2-1 lead and added an insurance goal for a 3-1 triumph over second-seed Harpursville.
It was the 18th straight win for Marathon, who improves to 19-1. The Olympians will travel to SUNY Oneonta next Saturday for the 1 p.m. New York State Class C Regional Championship against the winner of a Section 5 vs. Section 6 play-in game.
“We definitely had to move to the ball better,” said Funk of the first-half problems. “They were beating us to the ball and controlling more of the play in the middle of the field. It was important for us to get the ball out to the wings. We also were not keeping our heads down on the free hits.
“Being down at halftime for the first time this season,” Funk added, “we knew that it was important to score early in the second half and then to try and get another goal quickly. Roni (Allen) kept us in the game in the first half and she made a couple of big saves in the second half. It was a good test for her.”
Harpursville (16-4-1) controlled the ball and kept it in the Marathon zone a majority of the first half. The first big push resulted in a three shot sequence against Allen, who stopped all three shots.
The Hornets kept the pressure on and broke through when freshman Holly Andrews got to a loose ball in the circle off a penalty corner. Andrews fired a waist-high shot into the left side of the goal for a 1-0 lead with 5:32 left in the half.
Marathon got a few scoring chances, but Erin Andrews stopped all four shots, including a blast by Hannah Griep with four minutes left in the half off a penalty-corner insert by Tessa Knapp.
“We knew Harpursville was a good team,” said Allen. “Our defense played well. We did have a little trouble in the first half, but we talked about that and we hung in there.
“The shutouts are nice,” Allen added. “But, as long as we score more goals than the other team, then we will be the team that keeps on winning.”
The second half was a different story. Marathon turned up the intensity immediately and fired two quick shots in the opening minute of play that Andrews blocked.
The Olympians kept attacking and scored off a penalty corner with two minutes gone in second-half play. Knapp ran her goal-scoring streak to 12 games by banging home a rebound opportunity. Kelley Braman struck the initial shot that Andrews (15 saves) stopped. The ball was loose and Knapp came in to drill home the follow-up chance and knot the game at 1-1. It was the 26th goal for Knapp this season and the 48th of her career.
“The first goal was so important because it got us pumped up,” said Knapp. “We were a little down in the first half, but we knew we had to keep our heads ups or it wasn’t going to happen. We kept working hard and we made it happen.”
The Olympians stayed in attack mode and took the lead with 24:30 left in the match off a perfect penalty-corner play. Stephanie Fiske inserted the ball. Knapp took the ball and swung it to Marta Malmberg on the right side of the circle. Malmberg fired a shot towards the left post, which Fiske deflected into the goal. It was the third goal of the season for the sophomore and Malmberg, another sophomore, had her 15th assist in 2007.
“We did need some breathing room,” Knapp added. “Stephanie had a nice hit. She was right by the post, got a good hit and put the ball in the goal.”
The Olympians had three more penalty corners in the next three minutes, but did not score. With 12:07 on the clock, Braman gave her team some breathing room. The junior redirected a ball passed Andrews for the 3-1 advantage.
Even though they had two penalty corners earlier in second-half play, Harpursville did not get a shot on Allen (five saves) until the clock showed 5:30 was left in the match. Two big shots by Hannah Kimmel in the next 30 seconds were stopped by Allen and Kimmel fanned on a third attempt with 2:50 remaining. That would be it for the Hornets in the second half.
When the final whistle blew, it was a combination of joy and relief for the Olympians as the celebration began.
“Coach told us that we had to want it if we were going to win,” said senior Hannah Griep. “We started the game quickly, but slowed down and we really lost our focus. Coach Funk reminded us why we were here and we came out stronger in the second half. We did the things we had to do. We really got on a roll once we got that first goal.”
In other Section 4 Field Hockey Tournament action, second-seed Greene blanked top-seed Whitney Point 3-0 to capture the Class A. Andrea Day, Stephanie Washburn and Holly Davis each scored goals for the Trojans (16-2).
Taylor Stein had two goals and two assists while Katelyn Horan added two goals and one assists as top-seed Maine-Endwell (12-4) rolled to a 7-0 win over second-seed Owego in the Class B Championship match.


Trojan Bramhall headed to states

JAMESVILLE — It was a good day for Homer Central girls, who finally put together a complete team for the Section 3 Class B Cross Country Championships Friday at Jamesville Beach State Park.
Jessica Bramhall posted a sixth-place overall finish to lead the Trojans, Bramhall qualifying for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships a week from today at Norwood-Norfolk High School. Bramhall posted a time 19:27.5.
Teammate Caitlin McMahon was eighth in 19:42.6, while Heather Wilson grabbed 11th place after a time of 20:11.8 one spot behind a solid 10th place run by Cortland High’s Deanna Bishop (20:00.8).
As a team the Trojans placed third with 123 points, while Westhill took the team title with 68 points. Vernon-Verona-Sherrill was second with 90. Cortland High placed ninth with 201 points.
Westhill swept the team honors as the Warrior boys were also victorious, beating the Bishop-Grimes-Bishop Ludden team 45-70. Homer placed seventh with 278 points and Cortland was 11th with 282.
Marcellus runners Chris Stogsdill (15:27.7) and Carrie Carlton (18:31.6) earned top individual honors. The top five non-winning team runners in each race qualified for the state meet, along with the winning teams.
Also headed to the state meet is DeRuyter’s lone female runner, sophomore Samantha Moade, who took third in the Class D race in 20:21. Moade has finished 12th in the same race last fall.
“Our girls ran a great race today, but our pack time of 6:46 makes it tough,” said Homer coach Jim Baldwin of his team’s third place showing. “Jessica Bramhall gave it her all as she crossed the finish line. She ran the best race of the year, qualifying for states.
“Caitlin McMahon demonstrated that she was the toughest Homer runner with the performance today going sub-20 for the first time this season,” Baldwin added. “Heather Wilson ran a great race, but a fast start made it difficult to finish the way she had planned. Laura Niederhofer and Meg Harmon also ran well. Having a complete team to finish the season meant a lot to the girls today.”
Niederhofer was 30th with a time of 21:47.1 while Harmon (25:17.2) was 76th.
Bishop’s 10th place effort came coming off an injury.
“Deanna had been ranked in the top six or seven in the section all season and pulled herself out of last week’s league meet with a sprained ankle,” Purple Tigers coach Bob Vidulich said of his top finisher. “I am totally amazed at her tenacity. To be able to bounce back with the swelling and bruising she has had and run 10th overall is just a great achievement. The personal accomplishments by Jen Merckel (32nd overall in 21.53.2), Georgiana Perelka (37th in 22:05.7 and Anna Bitterbaum (50th in 22:49.7) are also noteworthy.”
Kaitlyn Bishop, Deanna’s sister, rounded out the CHS scoring, taking 87th in 26:33.8.
HOMER BOYS were led by Jackson Randolph and James McKenna. Randolph (17:27.1) was 23rd while McKenna (17:27.7) was spot behind in 24th. Andrew Gregg was close behind with a time of 17:48.8, good for 32nd place.
Cortland High’s Mark Vidulich was the top Purple Tiger finisher, in 45th place with a time of 18:23.6
“The Homer boys ran their best race of the year,” said Baldwin. “I could not be more happy with their performance. Our pack time of 1:28 was the key to our success today.
“Jackson Randolph ran a great race, just holding off James McKenna, who has run hard all year,” Baldwin added. “Andrew Gregg went out really fast his split at the mile mark was 5:15, he usually has a lot at the end, but that start did not leave him much. It was great to have Ross Pouliot back in the lineup and Jacob Weber has been a nice surprise as a freshman, who ran his best race of the year. Josh Bergmark and Micah Brown also ran their best race of the year.”
“Mark ran a personal best, and at a 5:50 pace as a sophomore, he ran his toughest,” Vidulich said of his top runner, his son. “Geoff Peppel ran tough (53rd overall in 18:37.3) along with Mike O’Donnell (75th in 19:42.1), Jordan Gillespie (78th in 19:51.3) and Justin Gogan (79th in 19:55.4).
“Although our team positions were not tremendous, their efforts and accomplishments were. Many of the kids, both boys and girls, have knocked three minutes off their times from the beginning of the season. The kids did a fantastic job and worked very hard, with some wonderful accomplishments.”
With so many talented young runners, Baldwin is looking forward to the next few seasons at Homer.      
“It will be really interesting to see how well they run next year,” said Baldwin. “Coach (Jason) Clark has done such a great job with the modified teams that some of next year’s freshman will make a serious contribution next year. We also do not lose any of the boys to graduation. The Homer coaching staff is really looking forward to next year.”
IN CLASS D, Leon Hartwell was DeRuyter’s top finisher, taking 86th overall in 20:53, as the Rockets were 15th in the 15-team field with 421 points. Beaver River won with 39 points.
Matt Furlough was next for DeRuyter, taking 100th in 21:26, while Everett Marks was 104th in 21:39, Josh Fuller 114th in 22:12 and Tim Vedder 123rd in 23:22.