November 16 , 2006
Eagles chase title in own backyard
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
McGraw’s Jen Rutan, trying to split two DeRuyter defenders here, has a team-high 19 goals heading into Friday’s Class D state semifinal game against Arkport.
Both teams will feel at home when the McGraw Central and Arkport girls’ soccer teams meet at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex in the New York State Class D semifinals.
McGraw’s Eagles (19-0-2, ranked third in the state), of course, will be playing virtually in their back yard. The Section 3 champions are in the semifinals for the second time in three years, having won the state D championship in 2004.
The Section 5 champion Arkport Blue Jays (23-0, second in the state), meanwhile, have reached the state semis for the third year in a row. They lost at this stage the past two seasons, as well as in 1993.
In fact, none of the Final Four D are strangers to their surroundings.
Top-ranked Chazy (20-0-0) from Section 7 and Section 9 champion S.S. Seward Institute, at 19-1-1 the fourth-ranked team in the state, meet in the other D semifinal. That game is also at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Stadium Complex, which will be the site of Saturday’s 4:30 p.m. championship game as well.
It will be a return trip for Chazy’s Eagles, who lost to eventual state champion Downsville from Section 4 in last year’s semifinals, and were beaten by Seward 4-3 in the 2003 semis. The Spartans went on to drop the 2003 state title game to Ellicottville 2-1 in overtime. Chazy, led by Helen Giroux (53 goals-17 assists), has outscored its opponents 120-5 this season.
S.S. Seward, coached by 1997 SUNY Cortland graduate Joe DiMattina, was part of last year’s Class C semis, losing 1-0 to eventual runner-up York from Section 5. They have outscored heir opponents 83-4 this season, led by sophomores Michelle Dugan (25 goals-20 assists) and Jillian Collova (24-12). In addition to recording 17 shutouts this season, sophomore goalkeeper Alina Greiser has stopped six of the 16 penalty kicks she has faced this season, with a number of others going wide.
In discussing Arkport, McGraw coach John Rutan said: “They play a 4-4-2 formation (the Eagles use a 4-3-3 setup). I don’t know how strong their league is, but I don’t think there are a lot of strong teams in it. Our league (the Central Counties League) is a bit tougher. But they’re a strong team, to make it to the semis three years in a row.
“They have a strong sweeper (senior Laura Ellis), a pair of good strikers in (senior) Megan Gee and (sophomore) Karley Schultheis and a good outside wing in (junior) Susan St. James.”
While McGraw has scored 69 goals and allowed only eight this season, Arkport has netted 136 goals and given up just eight. Gee, a first-team all-state Class D pick last season along with Ellis, has scored an incredible 58 goals and added 26 assists, while Schultheis had 16 goals and 15 assists and Ellis 13 goals and 12 assists. Junior Kristen Guenther is the starting goalie, and along with a pair of little-used substitutes has registered 16 shutouts.
Senior forward-midfielder Jen Rutan, a second-team all-state D selection last fall, leads McGraw with 19 goals and 14 assists, with freshman forward Emily Williams close behind with 18 goals and seven assists. Freshman midfielder Nicole Law has 12 goals and seven assists, and sophomore goalie Chelsea Hayes has 14 shutouts to her credit this fall.
McGraw beat Section 4 champion Milford 2-1 in overtime Saturday at Chittenango to reach the semis, while Arkport was a 5-0 winner over Section 6 champ North Collins at Medina High on Friday night.
“Our tenacity, speed and transition of the ball are our strengths,” said Arkport coach Melody Harwood, who is in her 22nd year as coach of the Blue Jays. “Plus, we have eight players back from last year, so we have a lot of experience. Our biggest thing is team unity. And because we’ve been to the semis before, we’re not going to get caught up in the hype. There’s so much sound, excitement and anxiety. We feel a little more settled, and are confident in that.”
As for playing the Eagles in what amounts to a road game, Harwood said: “We’ve been on turf too, practicing and playing at Hornell High. All that this means is that we have to travel further and our school administration has to spend more money. We’ll be there and together the whole time. McGraw’s girls will go back to their own houses Thursday night and have to drive back for Friday’s game.”
“Technically we’re the underdog, so the girls should go into the game feeling a little less pressure,” Rutan said. “We have six players who were in the Final Four two years ago, though I don’t know how big a factor that will be. The new players on both teams will just have to get past that early in the game.
“Our backs have done a good job of adjusting to different situations this season, and it will be interesting to see if Arkport has extra speed. We don’t know if Gee is an unbelievably quick player, if she likes to get the ball past people and use her speed to get to it first. We’re going to need to move the ball well, get back to two- or three-touch passing and hope that (senior midfielder) Diane Ralyea and Nicole can come up from behind and get shots.”
Rutan admitted to being concerned a bit about the temperature during a game that is slated to start after dark. He did note, however, that the starting time will be beneficial to his squad in one way.
“I hope the weather won’t affect the game,” he said, “but we should have pretty good support (from fans) at that hour, a lot of people there, because they’re done with work.”
SUNY Cortland and Homer High School’s Butts Field will be busy Friday with semifinal round games in all five classes.
The championship schedules for Saturday start with a pair of games at Homer, the Class A title to be decided at 9 a.m. and the Class B final slated for 12:30 p.m. Three more champions will be crowed at SUNY Cortland Saturday afternoon, as the Class C final is at 2:30 p.m., The Class D final at 4:30 and the Class AA final at 5:30.
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Olympians out to end two-year title drought
MARATHON — The intrigue will lead spectators in many directions Friday and Saturday as the final two hurdles to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class C Field Hockey Championships will be cleared by one of four talented teams.
Marathon Central will open tournament semifinal-round play Friday at 5:30 p.m. as the Section 4 champion Olympians (22-1) face Section 8 champs Friends Academy (14-3-1).
Game Two at 7:30 p.m. will feature two-time defending state champion East Rochester (18-0-1) from Section 5 battling Section 2 champion Hoosick Falls (19-3). The ER Bombers are riding a 57-0-4 streak since losing to Marathon in the 2003 state semifinals 2-1 on a Meghan Dean goal 38 seconds into second half play to break the 1-1 halftime tie. The Olympians would go on to win their third straight title the next day and sixth state crown with a 3-2 overtime win over North Salem as Heather Doran scored 3:09 into the 10-minute sudden-death period. It’s amazing that the last five championships have been won by two of the semifinalists.
But before either teams can dream of another title game showdown, both Marathon and East Rochester must take care of business on Friday.
“You play one game at a time, but you also have to win two games in less than 24 hours,” said Marathon coach Karen Funk, now in her 34th year with the Olympians and making her seventh final four appearance. “We have been concentrating on our defense this week in practice. We are relearning where we have to be on the field in every situation.”
“If you keep the other team from scoring, you have less to worry about offensively. We will also working_on our penalty-corner plays. We need to capitalize on those chances.”
Dean (29 goals-nine assists), who scored that winning goal in the 2003 semifinals, is the only player that was with two winning championship teams. The University of Maryland-bound senior midfielder was called up to the 2002 team as an eighth-grader for the playoffs and she was a freshman starter on the 2003 team.
Dean will be in elite Marathon company with one more state title. Only Carla Tagliente and Hilary Matson, both on the 1994-1996 teams; plus Jamie Gofgosky and Heather Doran of the 2001-2003 three-year title run, have won three state title. Dean will try to become the fifth Olympian to accomplish that feat.
“It is a great experience being able to play for one more state title,” said Dean. “It will be really exciting. I have really enjoyed playing with this group of girls this season and I really hope we can bring that title home again.”
Dean does joke that she was part of the 2001 championship team as well.
“I was there in 2001,” she chuckles. “I was a ball girl, so I was on the sidelines for the whole game.”
“The best part of this year is how much fun we have had as a team,” Dean added. “I can tell my teammates about how much fun it is to be on a championship team and play in Syracuse. I want to help my team in any way that I can.”
With the defense being a big key to this weekend, senior sweeper Sammy Parker knows that all eyes will be her and her defensive mates. This unit has been very strong all season, and with junior goalkeeper Roni Allen (77 saves), the defense has allowed just 18 goals this season with 11 shutouts.
“Our success on defense has been good communication,” said Parker. “We learned to talk well with each other during practice and that has carried over to our games. If we did not talk as much to each other as we do, we would be lost on the field.”
“I really feel that we are ready to play for the state title,” she added. “We have worked hard for this chance. We have been in some tough spots this season, but we have come through, so I believed that we really have earned our spot back in the final four, It is great to go back to Syracuse this year.”
The Olympians starting forward line includes junior Hannah Griep (20g-9a), sophomore Tessa Knapp (14-5) and freshman Marta Malmberg (8-24). Dean is joined in the midfield by sophomore Kelley Braman (8-5) and freshman Stephanie Fiske (3-1). The Olympian defense includes Parker, junior Kaitlyn Bliss, senior Gabrielle Gates and junior Whitney Stephens with Allen in goal.
Among the players, Coach Funk can turn to on the bench are forwards Nicole Gurewich (sr.), Amber Hines (sr.), Jessica Burlingame (jr.) and McKenna Light (fr.); midfielders Brittany Bell (jr.), Renee Drake (jr.), Lacey Pitman (jr.) and Michelle Stevens (soph.); plus defenders Cassandra Palmer (sr.) and Mallorie Pendell (jr.).
FRIENDS ACADEMY plays against some of the best teams on Long Island with Georgette Trott wrapping up her seventh year at the Lady Quakers helm. Garden City, North Shore, Manhassett have been opponents that Friends Academy has faced in 2006.
“Our girls have really accomplished a lot this season,” said Trott. “The kids have really come together as a team and our parents are also very loyal to our program.”
“We are not just about two or three players, we are 19 players and one team,” she added. “These girls love to play field hockey. They play with great heart and tremendous spirit. This is the best skilled team that I have ever had.”
After falling in the semifinals to Harpursville last year by a 3-1 score, the Lady Quakers have only had one team goal in 2006.
“We have really worked hard since last November to get back to this point,” said Trott. “We know how tough Class C is and how tough it is to come upstate, but we love coming to Syracuse and to Section 3. We have nothing but respect for the teams we play in the state tournament.”
“The hardest adjustment we have to make is playing on turf,” she added. “We only have grass fields that we play on here. The grass slows the game down so you really do have to play a different style on turf.”
The starting line-up for the Lady Quakers has sophomore Lynda Asadourian, sophomore Alexandra DeFrancesch and senior Caitlin Moore on attack; seniors Kathryn Dissinger, Elizabeth Drumm and junior Torre Taylor at midfield; senior Shannon Paschow will play either midfield or defense with senior Christine Farrell, junior Hayley Harrington and senior Emily Treiber on defense. The goalkeeper is freshman Caroline Johansen.
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