Niskayuna, Schoharie girls shooting for state soccer crowns

PHOTOGRAPHER: ERIC JENKS
Olivia Piraino and her Niskayuna teammates will be going for a Class AA state soccer crown, while the Schoharie girls' team will be competing in Class C.PHOTOGRAPHER: ERIC JENKS Olivia Piraino and her Niskayuna teammates will be going for a Class AA state soccer crown, while the Schoharie girls' team will be competing in Class C.

By Michael Kelly

— In the last two years, the Schoharie girls’ soccer team has advanced each season to the Class C state semifinals.

Both of those postseason runs ended at that point. Giving this season a different type of ending is the top thing on the players’ minds for Schoharie, set to participate in Saturday’s soccer state semifinals for the third consecutive year.

“It gets exciting thinking about what will happen if we could make it to Sunday,” Schoharie senior Caroline Wetsel said. “So we do let our minds wander a little bit, but we really just focus on Saturday.”

That’s when Schoharie (19-1-0) takes on Geneseo (17-3-2, Section V) at Cortland High School. Schoharie junior Carrie Krohn, who helps form a high-scoring trio with younger sisters Megan and Katie, said her team knows from past trips to the state semifinals what it will need to overcome to advance to Sunday’s championship round.

“We’re expecting a hard game. They’re a physical team,” she said of Geneseo, which is fourth in the Class C state poll to Schoharie’s No. 2 rank. “But I definitely think we can compete with them. We’ve been practicing hard. We know where they’re strong and where they’re weak, and we’re going to pressure their weak points and defend their strong points.”

While the Krohn sisters have scored 64 of the team’s 88 goals this season, Carrie Krohn said there’s more to the Schoharie team than those three players. Many team members — such as Addie Cornell, Bryn MacDonald and Maddie Phelan to name a few — play crucial roles.

“They’ve all stepped up and scored in the games when we needed them the most,” Krohn said. “We don’t just have a couple players.”

The close-knit team leaves today in advance of its semifinal. After a team dinner earlier this week and a shopping trip together Thursday night to hang out some more, the main prize for Schoharie this weekend will be the opportunity Saturday to win its way to the season’s final day.

“We’re all like sisters here,” said Cornell, a junior. “This is a huge family.”

SEMIFINAL SHOWDOWN

It’s a matchup of teams ranked atop the Class AA girls’ soccer poll, but Niskayuna head coach Bryce Colby said that will mean little Saturday when his team takes on Massapequa at Tompkins Cortland Community College.

“You never know, between weather-wise [and] nerves-wise,” Colby said. “They [Massapequa] have been here before and know what to expect. My kids are new to this stage of the season, so who knows what we’ll get from them. There’s so many variables at this stage of play.”

No. 2 Niskayuna (17-0-3), though, will be the underdog in its semifinal against a No. 1 Massapequa (15-1-2, Section VIII) team that has won three consecutive state championships.

Niskayuna advanced to the state semifinals after a 1-0 last weekend against Section III’s Liverpool. Freshman Olivia Piraino had the game-winning goal for Niskayuna, an unassisted score that came shortly after she had missed a close-range shot.

“It was almost like she was atoning,” Colby said of Piraino’s winning goal.

AROUND THE SECTION

Three boys’ soccer teams remain in the state playoffs from Section II, as Class AA’s Bethlehem (17-2-1), Class B’s Ichabod Crane (18-2-1) and Class D’s Fort Ann (20-0-0) will play in Saturday’s semifinals in Middletown.

Fort Ann won a state championship last year, while Ichabod Crane shared a state crown in 2012 with Section V’s Livonia. Bethlehem has never won a state championship.

Also in semifinal action Saturday from Section II is Bolton (16-4) in the Class D girls’ tournament. Bolton has never won a state title, while Section II has not had a team win a Class D state championship since St. Johnsville in 2000.

All of the state’s championship games are scheduled for Sunday.