November 4 , 2006


Trojans trip Purple Tigers in OT

Benz goal gives Homer 2-1 victory in Class A final

Homer Cortland Soccer

Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Homer Central’s Kaylee Benz, center, celebrates with teammates Meghan Finn (9) and Erin McSherry (right) after scoring the game-winning goal with 9 seconds left in double overtime to beat Cortland High 2-1. Stunned CHS players are Stephanie VanGorder (17) and goalie Natalie Khazzaka.

Staff Writer

Once his team had tied Friday’s Section 3 Class A girls’ soccer title game against archrival Cortland High, Homer Central coach Jim Baranello could sense victory.
It just took a bit longer than he figured.
Junior midfielder Kaylee Benz converted a corner kick from senior midfielder Laura Buerkle with nine seconds left in the second overtime period as the top-seeded Trojans won 2-1 for their first-ever sectional championship on a frigid night at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex.
Cortland, the second seed, led 1-0 at halftime on an early goal by sophomore forward-midfielder Casey Marks. That advantage held up until junior forward Emily Swisher got the equalizer for Homer in the 30th minute. Before and after, both teams had a number of chances, and Trojans senior keeper Hillary Simon came up big on two breakaways by CHS senior forward Katherine Hunsberger to help keep her team in it.
“Cortland certainly played better than we did in the first half,” said Baranello, whose team, ranked 10th in the state in Class A, is now 19-1-1 overall, extending its school record for wins in a season. “We got out of it just down by one goal and were lucky at that. I thought maybe Cortland had spent themselves a little, and told the kids at halftime to press right away in the second half. When we finally got the tying goal I thought we’d win, but didn’t think it would be with nine seconds left in the second overtime.”
“Everyone knows that Laura can get it there on a corner kick, and everyone from Cortland was saying ‘Watch 18,’ but I had to get it,” said Benz, who wears that number and now has 10 goals this fall. “Everyone was counting on me to do it, and I did. I took Laura’s kick on my left thigh, ran through it and put it in.”
“I knew it would be our last opportunity (before a pair of five-minute sudden-death overtimes),” said Buerkle, who upped her school single-season scoring mark to 65 points with 24 goals and 17 assists. “I thought we’d have a good chance to score on a corner kick. Kaylee found a way to put it in; she usually does.”
THE PURPLE TIGERS, who finished the season at 16-4-1, came out strong to start the game, and it paid off quickly.
Junior forward Natalie Muka banged a direct kick from 25 yards out off the left corner of the crossbar, and sophomore forward-midfielder Casey Marks was there to put the rebound away from close range just 2:21 into the game.
It was only the eighth goal given up by Homer this season, the Purple Tigers accounting for six of them. CHS, meanwhile, gave up nine of the 17 goals it allowed this fall to the Trojans.
“It was mostly Natalie,” said Marks of her eighth goal of the season. “After her kick hit the post, I just ran in and shot it. It felt god to have the lead.”
“We always try to go out hard,” Purple Tigers coach Abbey Albright said. “We felt good after getting the first goal, but I had in the back of my mind that in the two previous games we’d played the team that scored first had lost.”
Homer was a 6-3 winner at Cortland back in September, with the Purple Tigers coming from behind for a 2-1 overtime victory on the Trojans’ turf on Oct. 21.
“Hillary made some good decisions and some key saves, and I also thought that Kaylee did a very nice job of controlling the midfield for them,” added Albright. “Homer came out ready to go in the second half, and I think we were a little timid once they started playing their passing game. We didn’t capitalize on the few chances we needed to in order to score our second goal.”
CHS came close twice, as Hunsberger was stopped by Simon on breakaways with around 21 minutes left in each half, on a low first-half shot and on a dive to smother the ball by the Trojan keeper after it got a little too far ahead of Hunsberger.
“THERE’S A FUNNY story about that,” Simon said with a wide grin and a laugh. “Katherine used to be a goalie (with the Crown City Soccer Club) and trained with me. You have to be a field player when you’re not in the goal, so I’ve had a lot of experience with her coming at me one-on-one. I feel more confident when someone’s coming at me that way. In a scramble you don’t know where the ball is going. I’d rather have no defenders back.
“We know how Cortland plays an they know how we play, so it’s going to be like this every time when we go against each other,” said Simon. “We were going to do it any way we could; we didn’t want to lose, especially in the sectional championship. We’ve wanted this for four years, and it’s awesome. Getting past CBA (1-0 in overtime on Tuesday) was a big obstacle. They’d stopped us the last two years.”
Cortland had a 7-3 shot advantage at halftime (9-7 for the game, but Homer got off three shots to CHS’s one in the second half. “Other than the breakaways they didn’t have any shots in the box, while we got the ball into the box plenty but just weren’t finishing,” Baranello said.
The Trojans had a good chance in the first four minutes of the second half, the ball rolling around near the goal before the Purple Tiger defense finally cleared it out. It was left to Swisher to finally tie things up, pouncing on a loose ball about 10 yards out on the left wing and putting her ninth goal of the season just inside the far post with 10:16 left.
“We’re a second-half team,” Swisher said. “When we tied it, I knew we were going to win. We were getting more and more frustrated (with not scoring), and I was just in the right place at the right time when I did score. I had to place it, and it was on my good foot, the left. I just put it in the far corner.”
The rebound off a Homer shot that Cortland senior goalie Natalie Khazzaka stopped (one of four saves she had, to six for Simon) was cleared out by her defense with just under six minutes left, and Cortland senior midfielder Kim Natoli put a shot wide to the right from 20 yards out about a minute and a half later.
Hunsberger was turned back on a run near the box with two minutes or so left in the first extra session, and Simon just beat CHS players to a couple of loose balls in the second OT before the dramatic finish as the winners expanded on their school record by scoring their 78th goal of the season.
The Purple Tigers, now in their 10th year of varsity existence, were in a sectional final for the first time, in fact having won just one previous post-season contest before winning twice to earn the right to play Friday.
Why the sudden and dramatic improvement?
“The girls came together as a team,” Albright said. “There was more of a flow on the field, and they did a good job of reading ad communicating with each other, on and off the field. If someone had told me before the season that we’d be playing in the sectional final, I probably would have looked at them kind of weird. Not disbelieving, just wondering.
“I can’t say enough; this is a great group of girls. They know when to joke around with each other and me, and when it’s time to get serious. This season has been great. The girls have taught me a lot, and hopefully I’ve taught them.”
“It’s too bad that it had to end this way,” Marks said, but we’ll get it next year. We’re going to come out twice as strong.”
“This is a special group of kids,” Baranello said of his squad. “I knew I had a very good group from the first day of practice. They’re close and they work hard, and they’ve given me one of the best experiences of my life.”
Baranello, as coach of the top two Crown City age group squads (the Force and the Flash), has coached most of the players on both teams at some point. “At one point, I counted 20 or 21 players on the field who are or were part of the club,” he said. “I don’t want to take credit for Cortland, because Abbey did a great job all year, got them fit and kept things well-organized,” Baranello said. “This was a bittersweet win. I’m very close to those Cortland kids; they’re great kids and players. Even after we tied it, they had us back on our heels a few times, and made life miserable for us in the first half. They played a great game.”
As for the scholastic success enjoyed by Crown City players — including a handful who play for McGraw, which meets Madison for the Class D sectional crown at 6:15 p.m. today — Baranello said that. “I’m very proud of that. The reason I work so hard at it is exactly what you’ve seen tonight. I want to see the community do well and I take great pride in the winning (high school) teams.”
The win advanced the Trojans into the Class A regional semifinals, where they’ll face Section 2 champion Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (14-7-1), the sixth-ranked team in the state, at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Chittenango.




Olympians back to claim ‘C’ title

Staff Writer

ONEONTA — It has been two long years since Marathon Central girls last stepped onto the artificial turf at SUNY Oneonta, but it was a highly successful return as the Olympians can again call themselves Section 4 champions.
After taking a 2-0 halftime lead, Marathon got two big insurance goals from Meghan Dean to seal a 4-1 win over Tioga in the Class C title game on a very chilly Friday night. 
“It feels great,” said Dean. “It was a heart-breaking loss (to Harpursville) that snapped our 87-game winning streak and we did not get back here last year, but we did what we had to do this season. Hopefully, we can keep it going.”
“This was one of those games that we wanted to get back to,” said Marathon coach Karen Funk after the return to the sectional final. “We had a little business that we needed to attend to. We did that and now, we are back! Next up are a couple of regional games. Hopefully, we can also make it back to Syracuse.”
The state tournament Final Four will be at Alliance Bank Stadium in Syracuse.
“Our last two losses in post-season were big losses,” Funk added. “One ended our winning streak and, last year, to get knock out in the semis was definitely a surprise for us and everyone else, especially the girls.”
Marathon (20-1 overall) was in control from the opening whistle with its first of 14 penalty corners in just 16 seconds. Dean took the insert pass from Hannah Griep and fired a blistering shot at the cage that Tioga goalkeeper Emily Tholen (nine saves) calmly made a great kick save.
Three more penalty corners in the next five minutes kept the pressure on, but it was late in the 22nd minute when the Olympians finally scored. McKenna Light gathered a loose ball in the circle and drove a hard shot towards the right post. Kelley Braman was positioned near the post and deflected the ball passed Tholen for a 1-0 net. It was the eighth goal of the season for the sophomore midfielder.
“Tioga played this game the same way they did our first two meetings this season,” said Coach Funk. “They simply packed it in on defense. It was just a matter of when we were going to get the ball in the goal.”
“I don’t worry that we’re not going to score,” she added. “It is just a matter of being patient enough and waiting for the opportunity.”
“Once we get the first goal, we really get pumped up,” Dean said. “We just keep going at the point. You keep working hard and you never give up. Kelley got a great touch on the ball. It was an awesome goal to get us started off.”
Four minutes later, the Olympians increased the advantage to 2-0. Marta Malmberg fired a shot that rebounded off the Tioga goalkeeper. Tessa Knapp got to the ball and fired a shot into the back of the cage for the two-goal advantage.
Tioga (15-4) only crossed the midfield stripe a handful of times during first half play.
Second-half play got underway and Dean netted her 27th goal of the season after a nice shot in the circle with 25:15 left in the match. Marathon now owned a 3-0 cushion, but Tioga would not go quietly.
The Tigers began to apply some pressure of their own with three penalty corners over the next six minutes, but only one shot materialized. Olympian goalkeeper Roni Allen made her lone save of the game on_the play.
Marathon would counter with a couple of hard shots, but Tholen was up to the challenge. The first save came on a quick shot by Malmberg (13:38 left) and the second on a shot by Braman with 12:51 to go.
Tioga would get on the board with 8:19 remaining when Jesse Robinson took a nice pass in the circle. She dodged a couple of defenders and pushed the ball inside the left post. The tigers continue to apply some pressure for the next minute, but Marathon retook control for good.
The 13th penalty corner of the night proved to be good luck for the Olympians when Knapp began the play with the insert pass. The ball would soon find Hannah Griep. The junior forward slid a pass to her left, which Dean blasted into the cage for the final goal of the night with 3:20 left to play.
“I moved Meghan out onto the wing because she was getting double-teamed and triple-teamed,” said Coach Funk. “That move allowed her to bring the ball up the field better and move it into the circle.”
“The last goal on the penalty corner is just one of those cases where sometimes the play works and sometimes it doesn’t. The girls just have to work hard every time and, in this case, it worked out well. That is a play that we have and it certainly was nice to see it work with Hannah and Meghan.”
“It was nice to get a couple of goals, but it is still a team effort,” Dean said. “We passed the ball well. We kept our spirits up and it was an awesome win for everyone. It’s always a great experience to win a championship.”
There was a scary moment just one minute later when Tioga midfielder Stefanie Miller tried to stop a Dean pass. As she put her stick on the turf, the ball hit the bottom of that stick, traveled up the length of the stick and struck Robinson in the forehead. She immediately dropped to the field and her coaches rushed to her aid. After a few minutes, the bleeding on her forehead was stopped and bandaged. Robinson stayed long enough to get her runner-up medal and was then taken to the hospital for some stitches by her parents.
Once the final two minutes ran off the clock, the Olympians began their celebration.
“This was a big win for our girls,” said Coach Funk. “They have learned to not take any game lightly. That is why we have the record we do. The girls want to win every time they step on the field.”
Marathon will need two more wins to return to Alliance Bank Stadium and the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class C Final Four. The first of two long road trips will be Tuesday when the Olympians travel to the Hudson Valley Sports Dome in Milton (approximately 172 miles one-way) to face the Section 9 Class C champion in a first-round match at 4 p.m.
The winner of that match will travel to Lakeland High School in Shrub Oak (approx. 195 miles one-way) next Saturday for a quarterfinal-round showdown with the Section 1 champion.
In the other two Section 4 Championship matches, Greene captured the Class A crown with a 3-1 win over Whitney Point while undefeated Maine-Endwell pounded Southern Springs 10-0 to claim the Class B title.



Knight moving on to third state meet

LIVERPOOL — Margaret Knight completed a three-peat in Friday afternoon’s Section 3 Class B Girls’ Cross Country Championships at Long Branch Park.
The Cortland High senior qualified for the state meet for the third year in a row by taking third among 92 runners in 20:12.9, in a race won by Chittenango junior Michelle Brandt in 19:49.6.
Homer Central junior Laura Niederhofer was ninth in 21:08.5, one place ahead of CHS junior Deanna Bishop (21:11.5).
The Trojans were sixth among 12 complete teams with 132 points, while the Purple Tigers were seventh with 167. Westhill took team honors with 81 points.
Homer sophomore Ryan Sullivan was the top local finisher in the boys’ race, taking 17th in 18:03.7, while senior Sam Narby took 36th in 18:44.7 to pace Cortland. CHS was 10th among 12 complete teams with 265 points, with Homer 11th with 277. Westhill won the team title with 53 points.
Knight will make her third trip to the states, taking place a week from today at Warwick Valley. She took 31st in the Class B race in 2004 in 20:30 and, after winning last year’s Class A sectional race, was 14th in the state Class A meet in 19:08.4.
“Margaret ran tough all season, has worked tremendously hard and has just outstanding talent,” Cortland coach Bob Vidulich said. “Deanna was so close again, but because of the configuration of team displacement this year missed a berth in states by only a few places.”
The top team plus the next five individuals qualified for states.
“She has my deepest respect as a coach for her tremendous character and effort,” he added of Bishop.
CHS sophomore Kristie Endler was 50th in 23:42.6, with eighth-grader Jenn Merkel 52nd in 23:49.3 and senior Cassie Clark 55th in 23:57.6.