November 5, 2008



Shootout sends CHS booters on

Marks PK settles state tourney opener

Staff Writer

CHITTENANGO — The pressure was immense, and Casey Marks was ready.
The Cortland High and Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake girls’ soccer teams had battled through 110 minutes of scoreless soccer, including two 10-minute overtimes and a pair of five-minute sudden-death periods, to try to determine which would advance to the quarterfinals of the New York State Class A tournament.
The Purple Tigers from Section 3 and the Section 2 Spartans had each converted three penalty kicks, and Cortland’s senior midfielder was the last shooter of the first five-player round. A goal would end the game at Chittenango Stadium; a loss would send the contest deeper into the evening.
Marks walked slowly to the line, stood a moment with her hands on her hips, and then unleashed a hard shot that senior goalie Teegan Kelly from Burnt Hills (as the team is commonly known) never had a chance on. A purple tumult followed, as Marks was enveloped by her elated teammates, all part of this most successful CHS season ever.
While the game was technically a tie, the Purple Tigers, now 17-4-1 and ranked 16th in the state in Class A, have already won the most games in the program’s history and are deeper into the post-season than any previous CHS squad.
They will face Section 10 champion and 13th state-ranked Massena (16-3) at noon Saturday at Potsdam High School in a bid to return home for the Final Four, which will take place at Homer’s Butts Field and Tompkins Cortland Community College on Nov. 14 and 15.
“I think that walking out was intimidating; most players jog to the ball,” Marks said of her approach towards the winning shot, still wet after an attempt to dump a water bucket on coach Abbey Albright was only partially successful. “It had a dramatic effect.
“This was our most evenly-matched game all year,” he added. “Burnt Hills is a strong team. We lost to them in penalty kicks last year, so we had some revenge to get.”
The Spartans, the fifth-ranked a team in the state this week, survived last year’s match-up 4-2 in penalty kicks after the two teams had tied 3-3 through 120 minutes. Cortland junior goalkeeper Hannah Polanko-Baker was in goal for that one, and had filed away some mental notes.
“Two of the girls who took shots today took them last year too,” she said, “so I knew where they shot.”
That knowledge paid off right away, as Burnt Hills junior midfielder Monica Wolf opened the round with a low shot to the left that Polanko-Baker dove and stopped. The same thing had happened last fall, in the same slot in the lineup.
“That was crazy,” the Cortland keeper said with a laugh. “My body pulled me to the ball.”
AFTER A CORTLAND miss, each team scored twice — junior midfielder Alexis Keeney and senior defender Emily VanGorder converting for the Purple Tigers, junior midfielder Nicole Collins and sophomore defender Sarah Glowa for Burnt Hills —before freshman defender Nicole Shively unleashed a shot that sailed high over both the soccer and football crossbars. Junior midfielder Elle DePerno then beat Kelly to give CHS the advantage. Senior forward Georgiana Farrow found the net for the Capital-area squad, setting the stage for the heroics by Marks.
“This was made sweeter because we were eliminated in penalty kicks last year and won it the same way this year,” Polanko-Baker said with a joyful laugh.
“Having the experience from last year and also having the game played at our home section was a mental help for us tonight,” Albright said, CHS having won a regular season contest and two sectional games on this same Chittenango turf. “We had been preparing for penalty kicks for the last week, but I never could have imagined that this game would come down to that in order to see who advanced.
“With PB already having to go into a shootout last year as a sophomore, she was much more prepared and calm for this one,” she add. “She did her part. She made the first save in order to help her teammates, and we were fortunate enough for another Burnt Hills player’s shot to go over.”
“It’s a tough way to decide it, but we were on the other end last year,” said Burnt Hills coach Brian Bold of the penalty kick around that finished the season for his side at 14-5-3. “You live by it, and you die by it. There’s a lot of pressure, but we practice these. We ask who wants to take them when the time comes. It just comes down to so much individualism to decide team glory and sorrow.”
The ouster was the first for the Spartans after three straight regional successes for the Spartans, who beat Syracuse CBA 1-0 in 2005 and Homer Central by the same score a year later before their two marathons against Cortland.
CORTLAND WAS out-shot 12-10 in regulation and 9-6 over the 30 minutes of extra time, but still managed had the best chances to score, thanks in large part to the hustle and quickness of junior forward Aubrey VanGorder. Kelly just beat her to a loose ball with 14:50 left in regulation, and VanGorder very nearly had an assist on what would have been the game-winner as she crossed  a ball from the left side to senior forward Katherine Hunsberger, whose shot with 15 seconds left in the second 10-minute overtime was altered slightly by a defender and sailed just wide to the right.
Keeney whistled a shot just over the crossbar with 7:40 left in the first half in another close call. The Cortland defense, meanwhile, turned in another stellar effort, limiting Burnt Hills to mostly long-range shots. In the last 11 games, in which the Purple Tigers have gone 11-0-1, their opponents have scored just twice (to CHS’s 33 goals). CHS has a 13-1 scoring advantage in post-season play, the lone goal coming after the issue had already been settled in a 5-1 win over Fulton in the sectional semifinals.
“The play of Burnt Hills was very similar to last year,” Albright said. “Their two girls up top were very fast, like last year. They played the same 4-4-2 formation with a sweeper in the back. The game was intense the entire time, whereas last year we really picked it up in the second half and overtimes. They train their flank players to make quick runs up the outside and to play very high offensively. They only had two seniors who played last year, so they hadn’t lost much.
“At halftime we talked about how we needed to play the ball a little quicker in order to create scoring opportunities. Farrow had 21 goals this season, so we knew she would be a scoring threat and tried to make sure that she was closely marked. I wouldn’t say revenge was a factor for the girls, but they sure did want a win tonight. Every girl put everything she had on that field. I am so proud and happy for them,” she added.
“I THOUGHT LAST year’s game was a bit more physical, and it was played on a little bigger field than this one,” Bold said, that game held at Section 2’s Broadalbin-Perth High School. “It was a little more back-and-forth last year.
“The first half was a little ugly on our part, but we played very, very well in the second half and the overtimes. They have a good team, and so do we. We play in a league (Suburban Council) with mostly AA teams, and I love that. It prepares us for the post-season.”
“Give them credit,” Polanko-Baker said of Burnt Hills. “They’re a really good team with a really good goalie. Congratulations to them on making it this far.”
“If any year, this was going to be the year,” Marks said when asked if the Purple Tigers had any idea the season would unfold as it has. “We’re strong, with a lot of young players who have played amazing throughout the season.”
“Knowing what it felt like from last year, to be on the other end after being regional co-champion, the girls didn’t want that feeling,” Albright said. “This is the best tie that I’ve ever experienced as either a player or coach.”

Cortland 0, Burnt Hills 0, OT
(CHS advances 4-3 in PK shootout)
   By periods:
Burnt Hills    0   0   0-0   0-0   —   0 (3)
Cortland               0   0   0-0   0-0   —   0 (4)
   Goals-Assists: None
   Penalty Kicks: Burnt Hills (3)- Nicole Collins, Sarah Glowa, Georgina Farrow. Cortland (4)- Alexis Keeney, Emily VanGorder, Elle DePerno, Casey Marks
   Shots: Burnt Hills 21, Cortland 16
   Corner Kicks: Burnt Hills 2, Cortland 2
   Saves: Teegan Kelly (BH) 5, Hannah Polanko-Baker (C) 10