November 10, 2008


CHS able to ‘bring it back home’

Beats Massena 4-1 to reach Final Four


D.J. VanGorder/contributing photographer
Cortland High’s Kelsey Faberzak chases down this ball during Saturday’s 4-1 Class A state tournament soccer victory over Massena in Potsdam.

Staff Writer
POTSDAM — The Cortland High girls’ soccer team came home to stay Saturday night, but with some unfinished business.
The two-time Section 3 Class A champions rolled past Section 10’s Massena 4-1 Saturday afternoon at Potsdam High in the New York State tournament quarterfinals, advancing to Friday’s semifinals where they’ll face Rye (16-4-1) out of Section 1 with a little less traveling to do.
That Class A state semifinal is set for 11:45 a.m. at Tompkins Cortland Community College in Dryden.
“With us, it was ‘Bring it back home,’ said Purple Tigers senior midfielder Casey Marks, who scored twice to lead CHS. “We had to win so the fans who couldn’t make it to this game can make it to the next one. With the fans we had here today, we’ll definitely have more at TC3. Our fans are awesome; they’re so dedicated. They took a four-hour ride up here (on two school buses) and stood out in the cold, some with no shirts on. It pumps us up to see how many people come out to support us.”
“It’s so exciting to be coming home for the Final Four,” said junior forward Aubrey VanGorder, who closed out the scoring in the game with her team-leading 19th goal of the season. “The only bad thing is that (Friday’s game) is during school, but we had lots of fans today and we’ll still get a great turnout. I think we play a lot better with fans; it gets us more pumped up.”
“The fans have been great over the past few games,” Cortland coach Abbey Albright said. “They’re there cheering on the girls in the snow, sun, and rain. When we started walking out to the field, the spectator bus came up at the same time. The fans were yelling out the windows and cheering. It really set the tone for the girls. Having the state championships at home is definitely an incentive. We have played at TC3 in the past. To be only 15 minutes from school to our game site is great. We know that there will be so many fans at the game. The girls are really excited about it.”
Giving the Purple Tigers any extra kind of an extra edge hardly seemed fair Saturday, as they rolled up a 25-4 shot advantage in addition to their comfortable scoreboard margin in totally dominating a Massena squad that has now lost in the state quarterfinals the last five years in a row.
“I didn’t expect it,” VanGorder said of the ease of victory. “We knew we had to play our game, but I guess I’m a little surprised.”
“As long as we played our game we were going to be OK,” said senior forward Katherine Hunsberger, who scored her 16th goal of the season to open the scoring 11:27 into the contest. “It’s not really a surprise.”
If there were any home-field advantage Saturday, it would seem that to have been enjoyed by Massena, which is located only 20 miles from Potsdam. Cortland’s fans, however, had stronger numbers and made their presence known more vocally from before the contest started to well after the final whistle. The Purple Tigers negated the Red Raiders’ travel advantage, actually staying at a hotel in Massena on Friday night after busing up from Cortland following an afternoon practice.
“Thanks to the Booster Club for putting that together,” Marks said. “Coming up the night before helped a lot.”
“THE ROAD TRIP was fine,” Albright said. “The girls were excited at practice before we left, they were great on the bus, and then had their fun at the hotel. At practice I told them that when they woke up on Saturday they had to be focused and ready for the game. They handled themselves and the situation better than I could have expected. I’d like to give big thanks to the Cortland Sports Boosters and the school for all of their help with the weekend. Being able to eat on the charter bus and sleep overnight allowed us to be mentally prepared for the game. It was a huge advantage compared to waking up early and traveling to the game on the same day. The spectator bus was outstanding, and the team truly appreciates all who made the trip to our game.”
As noted, Hunsberger opened the scoring in the game, splitting a pair of Massena defenders and finding the lower left corner of the net. “I played the ball, took a couple of touches and shot,” she said. “It was good to score that goal; after that we knew we could score.”
For all of CHS’s domination — the ball was in Cortland’s attacking end of the field a good 60 percent of both the first half and the game — it looked like Massena would reach halftime down only 1-0. Marks then scored on a 30-yard direct kick from the middle of the field, unleashing a hard shot high to the upper right side 1:50 before intermission.
“I looked up and there was only one player in front of me,” Marks said. “Maybe they thought I’d send it to someone else. But as soon as I saw there was no wall, I was taking a shot.”
“After Katherine scored the first goal I looked at the clock and thought ‘OK, 70 minutes to go, just hold them to no goals,’” Albright said. “When Casey was fouled just before her direct kick, she looked at me and I motioned for her to take the shot. She’d been practicing those this week. It was a perfectly-placed, hard shot. I was so happy for her to be able to finish that. That goal really helped the girls to feel more in control of the game. To be up 2-0 instead of 1-0 was a big mental boost. With such a big field, the biggest we’ve played on all year, it took some time for the team to be able to sort out our play. We were leaving gaps on the field, our spacing was off just a tad. Being able to discuss that at halftime really helped, and we were able to work it out during the second half.”
“THAT SECOND GOAL definitely hurt the most,” Massena coach Ryan Hayes said of Marks’s tally after his team wound up a 16-4-0 campaign. “I told the girls at halftime that they needed to settle down and react — our first touches were terrible — and that they had to come together on the attack and go against Cortland’s midfield better. They won everything and distributed the ball well. They have the two best forwards (VanGorder and Hunsberger) that we’ve seen all season.”
Hayes had coaching friends from the Syracuse area scout Cortland in last Tuesday’s regional against Burnt Hills at Chittenango, with CHS won on penalty kicks after playing to a scoreless tie.
“The scouting reports were dead on. W did all we could do,” he said, shaking his head. “We knew what they were going to do, they did it and that was it. They’re by far the best team we’ve seen this season. We went up against a couple of AA teams (Amsterdam and Guilderland, both from Section 2) in a tournament at the beginning of the year, and Cortland is better than either of them.”
Marks scored her second goal of the game and fifth of the season, making it 3-0, just 2:37 into the second half, nodding home a corner kick from the left side by junior midfielder Alexis Keeney, her cousin.
“It’s a funny thing,” she said with a smile when asked about the play. “Before the warm-ups we were calling shots, ‘Keeney takes a corner kick to Marks, who scores.’ We always look for each other on corner kicks and direct kicks, but we hadn’t scored. It was perfect timing, I guess.”
MASSENA EIGHTH grader Dominique Valencius scored her third goal in two post-season games, converting a pass from sophomore midfielder Nyssa Laclair at close range with 10:17 left in the game before VanGorder scored her team-high 19th goal of the season on another short-range shot off an assist from Marks with 3:44 left for the final margin.
“After Casey’s second goal it was a little more relaxed for everyone,” Albright said.  “We knew that we had to keep playing with a defensive mindset and the girls did a nice job of that.  Aubrey did her magic when she beat some defenders up the middle on the dribble.  She kept her composure as their goalie did not come out hard and just finished to the left of the goal.”
All told, the Cortland goalkeeping trio of junior starter Hannah Polanko-Baker, junior Lisa Dovi and sophomore Amanda Shelley were not credited with any saves in the Cortland book, while Red Raider keeper Taylor Bacon stopped seven shots. Bacon was struck hard in the face by a loose ball after a scramble in front near the midway point of the first half and was down for a few minutes, but shook it off and went the distance. Massena came closest to scoring in the first half when Valencius hit the left side of the crossbar on a shot from that side less than a minute after Bacon was shaken up.
The win was the 50th in Albright’s three seasons as coach of the Purple Tigers, against just 13 losses and three ties. She has guided Cortland to the sectional Class A finals all three seasons, and to the two sectional crowns.
“After the Burnt Hills game I knew that the girls would be nervous and excited about traveling and staying overnight before the regional game,” she said. “I was thinking of ways to make them realize that it was just another game, so I put together the record that the team had compiled the last three years. To get my fiftieth win in such an important game is extra special, especially with this group of girls. It’s funny, I was on the bus about two hours after the game and then I realized that it was win number fifty.”
Rye, CHS’s next opponent, handed Section 9 champion Cornwall its first loss in 21 games this season by a 3-0 score in another Saturday regional. Friday’s other state A semifinal will pit Section 6 champ Williamsville East (21-1-1) against Section 8’s Rockville Centre South Side (8-3-6), the four-time defending state A champion, at Homer’s Butts Field. Williamsville East was a 2-1 winner over Section 5’s Our Lady of Mercy Saturday, while South Side won 3-2 on penalty kicks against Islip from Section 11 after the two teams played to a 110-minute scoreless tie.
The Class A championship game is scheduled for noon this Saturday at TC3.

Cortland 4, Massena 1
   By periods:
Massena       0    1    —    1
Cortland       2    2    —    4
Goals-Assists: Massena- Dominique Valencius 1-0, Nyssa Laclair 0-1. Cortland- Casey Marks 2-1, Katherine Hunsberger 1-0, Aubrey VanGorder 1-0, Alexis Keeney 0-1
Shots: Cortland 25, Massena 4
Corner Kicks: Cortland 8, Massena 0
Saves: Taylor Bacon (M) 7, Hannah Polanko-Baker (C) 0, Lisa Dovi (C) 0, Amanda Shelley (C) 0