November 5, 2007
McGraw’s youth shows in title tilt
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
McGraw’s Nicole Law (7) walks off the field after losing against Lyme Saturday in the Section 3 Class D soccer final at SUNY Cortland. The Eagles were blanked 1-0.
The youth of the McGraw Central girls’ soccer team, with only four seniors among its 19 players, made the fact that the Eagles reached Saturday’s Section 3 Class D championship game impressive.
On the SUNY Stadium Complex’s Red (football) Field, however, that same youth came back to bite coach Dave Law’s squad.
“What a time to have an off day,” Law said after fourth-seeded McGraw saw its season end at 19-2-1 in a 1-0 loss to No. 1 Lyme, snapping a streak of three sectional championships in four years. “Maybe the girls were intimidated, this team being so young. But we didn’t hit the ball well and didn’t get it up front.
“We didn’t put the pressure on their defense like we wanted,” he added. “We didn’t feel they’d be ready defensively for our kind of offense, but we were unable to get the ball up to midfield like we normally do. We didn’t get balls to the outside or do lateral runs to our forwards.”
The veteran Lyme squad, with eight senior starters and a defense that has still only allowed five goals all season, had something to do with that.
The Indians allowed McGraw only four shots in the contest, none of them a serious scoring chance, while taking 13 themselves. Freshman goalkeeper Alex Weston made just one save in recording the shutout. McGraw junior Chelsea Hayes stopped four shots and freshman Hayley MacLean didn’t make any saves in a span of 2:38 in which Hayes had to come out after taking an inadvertent knee to the head from a Lyme player during a goal-mouth scramble 10 minutes into the second half.
“Our seniors have been working together for four years now and have gotten to know each other well. They play well with each other,” Lyme coach Mary Guyette said after her team reached a goal of giving her 20 wins (against one loss) in her 20th year at the helm. “Our sweeper (Hillary Rust) and stopper (Olivia Speno), both seniors, did a great job up the middle. Alex is a freshman, but doesn’t play or look like one. Having four seniors on defense makes it somewhat easier on her.”
“Our philosophy is to just get the ball out and don’t take chances. We have a strong defense,” Weston said. “It was a huge game for us, and I had to stay in it (despite not being very busy). I just didn’t think about anything else but the game. I didn’t want to lose.”
The Indians had a number of good chances in the contest, but it was their first opportunity — 5:33 into the game — that they made count. Senior forward Rachel Mattraw took a pass from classmate Jennifer Augustus, a defender, about 10 yards out on the near left side and found the back of the net to the far side.
“Jen crossed it to me, and I just put it in the right corner,” Mattraw said with a smile. “I didn’t think it would be our only goal of the game, but I’m glad it was the winning goal.
“We knew coming in that McGraw was the only sectional champion back from last season, and that gave us extra incentive. We’ve been playing together since we were little, and finally got a sectional championship. Our offense hustled the whole time, and our defense was awesome.”
“I told the girls at halftime that this team was beatable against our style of play,” McGraw’s Law said. “But they shut us down quickly, and took us out of it. We weren’t able to rise to the occasion, but other than the goal most of the game was played in the middle third of the field.”
The Eagles were shut out for the first time this season, and put up some healthy numbers themselves, allowing just nine goals (including only two in their four sectional contests) in their 22 games while scoring 78.
“I told the girls that they lost the game, but won the war. What they accomplished this season was unexpected, and I’m proud of them for getting as far as they did, especially for our four seniors,” said Law of defenders Shannon O’Hara, Katie Niver and Tory Finton and forward Monica Byron, the team’s captains.
“The school, parents and community deserve thanks from us, too. These girls aren’t losers, they’re winners, and I can’t wait for next season. We’ll be back,” he added.
Lyme advances to the state quarterfinals against Section 4 champion Edmeston (18-2-1) this Saturday at a section 4 site, most likely the Hall of Fame Fields in Oneonta. The state Final Four takes place Nov. 16 and 17 back at the Stadium Complex.
McGRAW HAD A PAIR of sophomore forwards — Nicole Law (the coach’s daughter) and Kristen Gu — honored at halftime for being selected to the All-Section 3 Class D team. Lyme seniors Nikkia Raso (midfield) and Terra Towne (forward) also took bows for being select.
Also named to the team were DeRuyter seniors Chelsea Way (forward) and Kate Vosburg (back), Cincinnatus senior midfielder Jolene Eaton, Madison junior goalkeeper Caitlyn Smith, Faith Heritage senior goalkeeper Alexa Thayer, Old Forge juniors Kerrin Ehrensbeck (midfield) and Taylor White (forward), Hamilton junior back Lucy Campbell-DeCock and freshman forward Emily Truett and Remsen junior forward Tarah Brand.
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Upstart Olympians keep the title
ONEONTA — There are two things that really drive Marathon Central boys in Section 4 Class C soccer tournament play — pride and tradition.
The fourth-seed Olympians needed to summon everything they had Saturday at the Wright National Soccer Campus in Oneonta, but in the end they avenged a regular season 4-0 loss to second-seed Spencer-Van Etten with a 2-1 title game victory on goals by Matt Doran and Eric Gofgosky.
Marathon (16-3-2) claimed its third straight Section 4 Class C crown and will now face Section 3 champion Faith Heritage this week at a site in Section 3 at a time to yet be determined.
The title means a lot to the senior tri-captains and a team that really began to mesh midway through the season. For captains Jason Luce, Doran and Aubrey Brown, it was their third straight title as well.
“It means so much to us,” said Luce. “We are a tight-knit group. To win three titles in a row is a really big deal to us. We are a younger team this year. It took a little while, but things are really starting to click for us.”
“This is something that has not been done much,” said Brown. “It means a lot to me to be a part of this and it means a lot to our school and our coach, because of the tradition we have.”
“It really does mean everything,” said Doran. “A lot of people did not think we could do it again this year. We really all stepped up today and proved those people wrong. The defense has really improved a lot.”
While the tri-captains enjoy a third straight title, it was sectional title number five overall for head coach Chip Stewart. The Olympians have won titles in 1988, 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2007 under Stewart.
“You really do not know how proud I am of this group,” said Stewart. “We overcame a lot of things to get here. There are a lot of sacrifices made by our captains and all of the guys on this team. We do take a lot of pride in the color of that uniform that we put on our chest and where we want to go and what we want to achieve. We also take pride in those guys that came before us. A lot of those guys are right back cheering for us today. That is what it is all about. I will certainly savor this victory for a little while before we focus on Faith Heritage.
“Like I have said all season long, we were finding ourselves during the early part of the season,” Stewart added. “We lost 13 seniors from last year and many of them were three- and four-year players. This year, we really only have three, so there were eight spots we had to fill. We do have eight seniors this season that made major contributions today, but some of them are first-year players. There were a lot of decisions to be made, but one of the biggest may have been putting sophomore Josh Lincoln at sweeper. He has does a fantastic job and that has allowed Aubrey to not concentrate so much on defense. Aubrey can now attack as well and he got both assists today. Jason does many different things for us. He and Aubrey are so versatile. Matt is simply Matt. If you give him a chance, he will break you down. He gets to the places to score goals.”
Spencer-Van Etten (17-3-2) missed an open net in the second minute of play and put a lot of the pressure on the solid Olympian defense through the first 14 minutes of play.
Marathon slowly began attacking by keeping the ball on the flanks and it paid off when Doran scored in the 15th minute off a nice feed from Brown.
The Olympians maintained the lead for the remainder of the half. The few chances that S-VE did generate, Marathon goalkeeper Derrek Root (nine saves) was up to the task.
Much of the play in the first 20 minutes of the second half was in the middle third with few serious scoring chances. The Olympians finally got a little breathing room in the 66th minute when Brown played a nice through ball to Gofgosky, who beat Panther goalkeeper Justin Woodbury (six saves) with a solidly struck ball.
With a 2-0 cushion, Marathon let its guard down for just a moment and S-VE capitalized. In the 67th minute, Colton Wigsten took a pass by Tyler Bailey and found a seam in the defense. Wigsten used the unsettled moment to flick the ball into the goal to pull the Panthers to within 2-1.
“We did have our hands full today,” said Brown. “They did beat us 4-0 early this season, so we had to be ready today. We did have a little letdown after our second goal, but we got back on track quickly and did what we had to do.”
Marathon refocused quickly and never gave S-VE another shot in the remaining 13 minutes to seal the third straight sectional title. S-VE held a narrow 14-11 advantage in shots, and a bigger 6-1 difference in corner kicks.
“We had trouble getting the ball in the net,” said S-VE coach Matt Wigsten. “I told the guys that they really were controlling the game. Maybe if we had scored early, it would have made a difference. We knew Marathon would be a different team than the first time we played them. We knew they would be a tough opponent and we knew they were used to being here in the title game. It was a good game and I am proud of both teams. We had a good team and we will be back next year.”
IN CLASS B, Lansing’s Erik Rasmussen scored off a rebound with 16:38 left in the second half, propelling the Bobcats (17-1-2) to a 3-1 victory over Susquehanna Valley in the Section 4 Class B championship at Oneonta.
Rasmussen’s goal broke a 1-all tie. He scored on a 20-yard shot over SV goalie Matt Shell after Shell deflected a crossing pass from Nick Mallinson, who scored in the first half for the Bobcats.
Dan Ravas added an insurance goal with 3:50 remaining for Lansing.
FOR THE GIRLS, Lansing won the Class B crown and Candor captured the Class D title, giving the IAC schools a total of four sectional titles.
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Dragons overcome turnover woes
Not many football teams can overcome six turnovers and survive, which was the nifty trick SUNY Cortland pulled off on this crispy cool Saturday afternoon.
Despite losing five fumbles and throwing an interception, the Red Dragons were able to conclude New Jersey Athletic Conference play by beating perennial power Rowan 17-6 before a gathering of 1,000-plus folks at the SUNY Cortland Sports Complex.
Two big plays by senior buddies Keith Greene and Greg Steward — who are also tenacious defensive midfielders on the Cortland lacrosse team that has gone to the national finals the past two springs — enabled the Red Dragons to survive.
Wide receiver Greene hauled in a perfectly placed 48-yard pass from quarterback Ray Miles to give the Red Dragons a 10-0 lead late in the opening quarter. Cornerback Steward stepped in front of a Rowan sideline pass and returned that interception 26 yards into the end zone with 4:39 left to play to finish off the Profs.
“I think we responded to adversity all year, and this was just another chance to do that,” said Greene of how Cortland persevered despite not being able to hang onto the football.
The Red Dragons conclude NJAC play with a 6-1 record. And there is still a chance Cortland can share the league title if first place The College of New Jersey — which beat Cortland 30-0 last weekend before securing an NCAA Division III playoff spot by winning 27-14 at Buffalo State Saturday — gets upset at Kean.
The Red Dragons will take a 7-2 overall record into Saturday’s noontime Cortaca Jug battle at Ithaca College, where the winner can hope for a post-season playoff bid. The rival Bombers are also 7-2 after knocking off first place Alfred 42-25 in an Empire 8 League battle.
It certainly helped the Cortland cause that this Rowan is not the Rowan of seasons past. The visitors were just as error-prone as their hosts while dropping their third straight game, tumbling to 2-4 in the league standings and 4-5 overall.
Cortland and Rowan, co-champions in the NJAC the past two seasons, combined for 11 turnovers in this untidy affair.
“They have been struggling offensively, but I would like to think we had something to do with that,” said head coach Dan MacNeill after his Cortland defense picked off four passes and recovered a fumble while keeping Rowan out of the end zone. “Our turnovers allowed them to stay in it, and we overcame all of them. That tells you how staunch our defense is.”
ROWAN WAS LIMITED to a pair of Dave Roberts field goals in the third quarter. Roberts also missed twice from 43 yards. His first quarter attempt at that distance clanked off the crossbar. His final chance with 8:30 left to play, which could have pulled the Profs to within point at 10-9, was blocked at the line of scrimmage by the paw of junior defensive tackle Richard Rolo.
“A lot of young guys stepped up,” said senior outside linebacker Kyle Pierce, who was in on eight tackles, forced a fumble, picked off a pass and had one of three Red Dragon quarterback sacks. “We’ve had a lot of guys who have had to come in and fill in at different positions, and we played a really, really good defensive game today.”
Freshman linebacker Brian Haas was named the NJCA Defensive Rookie of the Year for the fifth time this season after making 12 tackles, a total shared by junior inside linebacker Jim Smith.
Freshman safety Colan Shue picked off the second pass of his young career and recovered a fumble, while also making seven unassisted tackles. Fellow frosh Mike Attanasio had seven tackles getting a start at defensive end.
Linebacker Adam McPartland had 10 tackles and combined with defensive tackle Bryan Wiley for a sack as the defense held Rowan to 277 yards, compared to 299 for Cortland.
Of course some seniors — Cortland’s upperclassmen introduced prior to kickoff in their final regular season home game — stepped up, too.
Cornerback Jeff Beck was doubtful for this game with an injury, but picked off a pass in the end zone to stop a Rowan second quarter scoring chance. Defensive end Brad Robison was doubtful for this game coming off a concussion, was in on seven tackles including a sack.
“We wanted to go unbeaten in the NJAC, but since we can’t we wanted to finish strong,” said team captain Pierce, Cortland getting that task accomplished. Pierce is part of a senior class that has posted 21 wins against just five losses in conference play over the past four autumns.
CORTLAND SCORED on its first possession thanks to a pair of third down completions by Miles — an 18-yarder to Eric Hajnos and an 8-yard screen pass to tailback Dustin Bowser. The Red Dragons would reach the Rowan two before settling for a short Matthew Mintz field goal.
That was the best drive of the day for the Cortland offense, however.
The Red Dragons struggled running the football against a Rowan defense led by senior strong safety Kelvin Bellamy — who created havoc throughout the afternoon. Losing senior Bowser to an ankle injury in the first half and having leading rusher Andrew Giuliano already out with an injury did not help matters, which is why senior fullback Mike Sveda ended up as the Red Dragon rushing leader with 32 yards on four carries. He had a grand total of three carries all season coming into the game.
Cortland did come up with two BIG plays that provided the winning points, however.
The first came after a Miles third down scramble gave Cortland a 1st-and-10 at the Rowan 48 in the final minute of the opening quarter. From there, Miles hit Greene in stride with a deep pass — the team receiving leader dragging a tackler the final few yards into the end zone.
“We got the match-up we wanted. We worked on it all week, though we adjusted the route a little bit in practice,” said Greene after his sixth touchdown reception of the season. “Miles kept asking me in the huddle: ‘You’ve got the post, right?’ I told him I did and then he hit me right in stride.”
“I knew it was going to be there,” said Miles of the touchdown toss, part of a 221 yard passing performance for the junior quarterback. “Just as we have all year, I threw it up there for him to get. He’s such an athlete.”
STEWARD PROVIDED the second big moment that secured the win, returning senior Joe Rankin’s third interception of the game for a TD on a 3rd-and-4 snap from the Rowan 23-yard line late in the fourth quarter.
“I was expecting it,” said Steward, who had an 87-yard touchdown return in a win over Montclair State earlier this season. “I saw the wide receiver stop and I saw the quarterback eyeing him the whole way, so I gunned it.”
And because he did, Cortland survived.
“The turnovers were disheartening,” was the final image MacNeill took from the victory. “They’re a hard-hitting defense, but the turnovers were disheartening. We’ll take a look at it.”
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