November 20, 2006
Marathon dethrones East Rochester
Photos by Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Marathon’s Hannah Griep (15) hugs Meghan Dean (left) and Marta Malmberg (right) after beating East Rochester 2-1 in OT to win the Class C state field hockey title in Syracuse.
SYRACUSE — With one flick of the stick, Marathon Central freshman Marta Malmberg scored the biggest goal of her young field hockey career.
While going down onto the Alliance Bank Stadium turf, Malmberg pushed the ball into an empty net 14 seconds into the second sudden-death overtime period to give the Olympians their state-record seventh title with a 2-1 win over two-time defending state champion East Rochester in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class C Championship match Saturday. The win capped a 24-1 season for the Section 4 champions while ending the 63-game unbeaten streak of a very talented champion from Section 5. East Rochester capped its 2006 season at 19-1-1.
“These girls are really special,” said Marathon coach Karen Funk. “They have worked so hard at field hockey. They set a goal in August and today they made that dream come true. Some people say it is the coach that gets the team here, but a coach is only as good as the girls on her team. These girls have great heart and a great work ethic.”
The winning goal was set-up by senior Meghan Dean, who closed out her outstanding career with her third state championship, the previous two coming in 2002 and 2003. Dean took the ball to start the second overtime stanza and ran right down the middle of the field. She dodged one defender and flicked the ball over another stick. As Bomber goalkeeper Erika Delgado came out of the cage, Malmberg ran to the ball. As she sidestepped the goalkeeper, Malmberg was knocked down by defender Erin Growney, but still got enough stick on the ball to sent it into the goal and set off the wild celebration. Malmberg was carried off the field by her teammates after the winning shot.
“It was a perfect pass from Meghan,” said Malmberg. “The goalkeeper had come out so I just tried to make sure I got the ball by her. This was really a team effort because we all worked so very hard for the moment.”
“I told Meghan to keep the ball on her stick until she saw Marta or Hannah (Griep) open,” said Funk. “Then, she was to shoot or make a pass, depending on what the defenders did. She made a great play to flip the ball to Marta for the goal.”
Dean gave Marathon a 1-0 lead 9:40 into the match off a penalty corner as Marathon really controlled the first 10 minutes of play. Tessa Knapp sent the insert pass to Dean, who dodged one defender and fired a hard shot into the back of the cage for her 31st goal this season.
“Scoring a goal in the first half to take the lead gave our girls the confidence to know that they could play with East Rochester,” said Funk. “We did give them too many penalty corners, but we were able to hold our own defensively.”
Dean just missed a goal 68 seconds into the match when her 18-yard shot was deflected and Delgado (three saves) kicked the ball out of danger.
East Rochester coach Linda Michele immediately called timeout after the Olympian goal to settle her girls down.
The strategy talk worked as the Bombers dominated the remainder of the half, but, despite three shots and five penalty corners, East Rochester trailed at the intermission.
To compound the Bombers’ problems, sophomore Ashley Moulton was injured trying to block a shot by Dean with 2:50 left in the half. While holding her stick in her left hand, Moulton’s hand was struck by Dean’s stick on the follow-through. Moulton immediately went down in pain. After being attended to by medical personnel, Moulton came off the field and never returned to action. Her hand was iced and wrapped pending further treatment.
Much of the second half was played between the 25-yard lines. East Rochester finally capitalized on its sixth penalty-corner chance of the game. Samantha Sortino inserted the ball to co-captain Krista Archambeau, who got a clear look at the goal and rifled a shot just inside the right post from near the top of the circle with 7:05 left in regulation time. Neither team mounted much offense the remainder of regulation time and the teams moved into the first 10-minute sudden-death overtime.
With the game reduced from 11 players per side to seven-on-seven, play really began to pick up. Dean got a good shot off from 15 yards out in the opening 45 seconds, but Delgado made the save.
Less than two minutes later, East Rochester nearly won the game off another penalty corner. Sortino inserted the ball to Growney, who delivered a shot towards the right post, just out of reach of Olympian goalkeeper Roni Allen (five saves). With the ball inches from the goal line, Marathon junior Hannah Griep dove to her left, reached out with her stick and swept the ball away from the goal line. She then jumped up and poked the ball out-of-bounds on the sidelines to save the day for the Olympians.
“I saw the ball got by Roni and I knew that I could not let it get by me,” said Griep. “Our whole team has worked so hard and waited so long for the title. I had to do this for the seniors. Everyone on this team is like family to me.”
Griep and Malmberg just missed tip-ins during the final five minutes of the first overtime and the play moved to the second overtime.
“I really don’t think we possessed the ball well during the first overtime,” said Funk. “On the free hits, we were just hitting the ball hard, hoping it would go through them (East Rochester).”
Always gracious, Coach Michele offered these thoughts after another tough loss to Marathon.
“I don’t think the girls felt any pressure from the streak,” said Michele. “The girls were looking forward to playing Marathon. They (Marathon) were not here the last two years, so we were excited when they made it back here this year. We knew we had a good chance to play them in the finals. You could not have asked for a better game between two good teams. This is what the state final is all about.”
Dean, Griep and Sammy Parker were named to the NYSPHSAA Class C All-Tournament Team for Marathon with Growney and Archambeau selected from East Rochester. Good sportsmanship awards were given to Marathon junior back Whitney Stephens and East Rochester junior forward Samantha Cavallaro.
Meghan Dean and Sammy Parker are just two of the six seniors on this Marathon team. They have played their last game as Olympians with classmates Gabrielle Gates, Nicole Gurewich, Amber Hines and Cassandra Parker. Both Dean and Parker summed-up what this title means.
“This is really an unbelievable experience,” said Dean. “I have won a state titles before, but I am so happy that everyone else on this team could experience this feeling of winning a state title. This is what being on a team is all about.”
“This is such an amazing feeling,” said Parker. “This is something that I have dreamed about all season and it is great to share this moment with so many of my friends.”
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Dismal Dragon finale
This brilliant football season was coming to a dismal conclusion as Alex Smith was making his way to the playing field, walking beneath the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex stands Saturday afternoon.
The despondent junior quarterback had been watching these ECAC Northeast bowl game proceedings from high above the playing field with SUNY Cortland assistant coaches. He was two weeks removed from knee surgery, had just done away with the need for crutches.
A season that had started with eight straight victories, that had featured a thrilling and emotional overtime victory over rival Ithaca College the previous weekend in the Cortaca Jug game, was coming to a thudding conclusion.
Visiting Rensselaer ended up feasting on seven turnovers to come away with a 26-7 victory over a Cortland team still smarting from being left out of the NCAA Division III playoffs. And despair was in Smith’s voice, thinking what might have been if he had not torn his ACL and become the first of three Red Dragon quarterbacks to be lost to injuries in the second half of the season.
“I feel bad for my teammates, though it’s not their fault. They didn’t have anything to do with it,” said Smith, referring to his injury suffered at Western Connecticut State back on Oct. 14. “We’ll just have to get them next year.”
This year was over, Cortland (9-2) done in by a sputtering offense and a defense that spent too much time and effort trying to keep the visiting Engineers (7-3) out of the end zone.
“We were ready to go. We didn’t have any doubts, it just wasn’t our day,” said senior defensive tackle Adam Haas, who had a stellar 10-tackle performance for the Red Dragons. “We have faith in all of our guys.”
Of course, Rensselaer is good at winning these ECAC contests. This is the school’s seventh appearance in these bowl games, and the Engineers are an unbeaten 7-0.
Senior kicker Drew Taranto drilled four field goals through the uprights with his consistent left foot and senior running back Jay Bernardo ran for a pair of touchdowns as RPI headed back to Troy a happy bunch. The stocky and shifty 5-foot-7, 190-pound Bernardo tied a school record with 48 touchdowns in his career. He has found the end zone in 20 consecutive games.
FINDING THE end zone was Cortland’s biggest problem — though the Red Dragons did grab a second quarter lead at 7-6 when junior Jeff Beck returned a kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown. He found a crease up the middle, escaped tacklers at the 40 and got some downfield blocking help from Ronnie Rodriguez to finish off that TD trek. Matthew Mintz made it a perfect 35-for-35 this season with his point-after kick.
But freshman quarterback Todd Pratt struggled in his first start and was picked off five times. A 43-yard sideline pass connection to senior wide receiver Drew Lascari late in the first half was the lone highlight of the Red Dragon passing game, though Pratt was picked off two plays later after Cortland had reached the 17-yard line.
Pratt finished 12-for-25 throwing the ball for 102 yards.
Junior tailback Justin Bowser was given the workload with senior captain and rushing leader Matt Rickert out of action after being unable to recover from a leg injury suffered in the Ithaca game. Bowser did rush for 98 yards on 21 carries, but that previously mentioned drive just before halftime was the only time Cortland was inside the RPI 20-yard line.
“We lost too many weapons on offense. I felt sorry for Sean out there,” said Cortland head coach Dan MacNeill of his fourth starting quarterback used this season.
Linebacker Nick Foglia picked off two passes for RPI, with other thefts coming from cornerback San McDaniel, safety Tim Acker and linebacker Armin Warner. Junior linebacker Tom Rayhill was named the game MVP for his 11-tackle performance.
“It’s not the way we planned it, but seven turnovers; is that what it was, seven turnovers? Well, that describes the game pretty much,” said MacNeill.
By comparison, RPI had just one turnover, a second quarter fumble recovered by Red Dragon senior defensive end Rich Coyne. But Bowser fumbled the ball right back to RPI on the very next snap.
Another lost fumble late in the second quarter was more costly.
Ahead 7-6 by facing a 4th-and-3 from their own 27, the Red Dragons tried a fake punt with Brad Robison running off right tackle. He may have gotten close to the first down marker, but had the ball pop free at the end of his run.
RPI recovered at the Cortland 31. On the next play, quarterback Jimmy Robertson completed a 30-yard pass to tight end Jon Branche who stretched out to the 1-yard line. After Cortland was off sides on a run that linebacker Bill Hauser stuffed for a loss, Bernardo scored from inside the one with 53 seconds to go in the half. The visitors were ahead for keeps.
RPI ENDED UP with a 398-211 edge in total offense, as Robertson threw for 291 yards and Bernardo ran for 122. Branche was on the receiving end of seven of Robertson’s throws.
If the Red Dragon defense hadn’t been so ornery, the final score could have been even more lopsided. But Taranto was busy making 4-of-5 field goals because Cortland was bending but not breaking. A 50-yard fourth quarter interception return by McDaniel to the Cortland 11-yard line did help RPI get into the end zone one last time, Bernardo scoring from a yard out with 8:10 left to play.
“We knew they were a good team. They’re in the ECACs for a reason,” said MacNeill of RPI. “We just struggled so much on offense, and give their defense some credit for that.”
RPI also had the ball for seven more minutes, which is not good for any defense — though Haas with a smile said he didn’t mind. “You get to make more tackles,” he said.
While this is the final game for his senior teammates, Haas will play once more. He was selected to appear in an AFCA Division III All-Star game that will send a team from the United States against the Mexico National Team. That contest is Dec. 16 in Aguascalientes, Mexico.
Still, Haas admitted this loss will take some time to get over.
And the highlight to this season, which included earning a share of the New Jersey Athletic Conference title with Rowan — who rallied to beat Hobart College 20-18 in the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament?
“Just the players and the teammates I’ve got,” will be the lasting Haas memory of his Red Dragon days.
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Semifinal shootout knocks out Olympians
ONEONTA — For 110 minutes, Marathon Central boys and Maple Hill battled to a 1-1 draw in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class C Soccer semifinals Saturday at National Soccer Hall of Fame Fields in Oneonta.
Two 10-minute overtimes, plus two addition five-minute sudden death periods came and went still no victory. The second-ranked Olympians (18-2-2) from Marathon and the Section 2 champion Wildcats (22-0-1) would each add one tie to their win-loss record and a penalty-kick shootout would decide which team would advance to Sunday’s state title game against Holland, a 1-0 winner over Southold from Section 1.
The shootout was just as exciting with the outcome not decided until senior Michael Ackerman found the back of the net to give the Section 2 champions a 5-4 decision over the Section 4 champion Olympians.
“We really played them tough,” said Marathon coach Chip Stewart. “We missed a couple of chances to take a 2-0 lead in the match and Josh Kashuba made some great saves during the match to help us stay alive and reach the shootout.”
Andrew Parker, Alan Brown and Jason Luce had hit their penalty kick shots for Marathon while Jaime Schultz, Collin Legge and Andrew Charsky answered Maple Hill as the PK shootout score was deadlocked at 3-3.
Brett Padbury appeared to have the Olympians back in front with a great shot towards the upper 90, but Wildcat senior goalkeeper Corey Stockman (nine saves) made a great leaping catch to prevent the ball from reaching the goal. Tim Ciampa gave Maple Hill a successful kick and a 4-3 lead.
All the pressure shifted to Marcus Diaz and the four-year varsity senior from Marathon delivered a clutch tying kick to knot the score at 4-4.
The pressure shifted back to Ackerman, who had scored 32 goals this season, and he delivered the winning shot to advance the Wildcats to the title game.
MARATHON CAME out strong as Zach Salisbury gave the Olympians a 1-0 lead with 24:33 left in the first half. Salisbury took a nice feed from Kasey Bush and drilled his team-leading 14th goal of the season.
The reminder of the half saw most of the play remain between the 18-yard lines, but the Olympians just missed a chance for a two-goal halftime advantage. Bush headed a nice pass from Diaz, but the ball ricocheted off the left post and away from the goal.
Maple Hill began forcing the action in the second half and finally got the equalizer with 28:40 left in regulation time. Ackerman delivered a nice pass to Schultz for his 32nd goal of 2006.
“We got a couple of good runs in the final 15 minutes, but we could not finish,” Stewart said. “We did not do much in overtime, but Josh made some great saves to keep us in the match.”
Ackerman was robbed by Kashuba (12 saves) after a nice header and the Wildcats were denied again with two minutes left.
While it was not the happy-ending Coach Stewart wanted for his team in 2006, 18-2-2 is still another outstanding season.
“We did have a great season overall,” Stewart said. “We won another sectional title and we won our regional game, we just missed taking the next step to reach the (state) title game. You cannot fault the effort my guys gave. They left everything on the field and there certainly were some tired guys on the benches afterwards.”
“The toughest thing about today was saying goodbye to the seniors,” Stewart added. “These guys were a special group. Some of theses guys have been with me three and four seasons. It is always emotional when you say goodbye for the final time.”
Maple Hill 4, Holland 1: Maple Hill completed its run to the Class C title with a 4-1 win over Holland Sunday. Michael Ackerman scored two goals with Tim Ciampa and Jamie Schultz, each adding one tally.
Holland scored its lone goal in the final minute of the game off the Wildcats back-up goalkeeper.
This is the first state crown for Maple Hill since the 2000 season. The Wildcats were semifinalists in both 2002 and 2005.
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