Looks of concern turned to wide smiles when the Niskayuna girls’ soccer team thought Olivia Piraino had come through again with the tying goal.
Those smiles didn’t last.
“Great cross. Great finish. Bad break,” coach Bryce Colby said after the Silver Warriors’ fell short in their upset bid against three-time defending state Class AA champion Massapequa. “I can’t argue that call. It was offsides, but not by much.”
Less than a minute after what would have been Piraino’s second goal, Massapequa struck for the clincher in a physical 3-1 semifinal victory Saturday morning at Tompkins-Cortland Community College in Dryden.
Massapequa (Section VIII, 16-1-2) did all of its scoring in the second half after Piraino, Niskayuna’s only ninth-grader, gave her team the lead 10:56 into the contest on probably the flukiest of her 19 goals this fall.
“They were clearing it out and the ball hit my back,”
Piraino said of the high floater that snuck under the crossbar. “I turned around and saw their girl [goalkeeper Hayley Poltorak] go back and the ball went over her hands.”
Niskayuna (17-1-3) was thwarted from there, with a shot sailing over the crossbar soon after Piraino’s goal and a few others stuffed in a game Colby didn’t think his team would reach.
“I thought we were good enough to compete with most of the teams in our section, but no, I didn’t see this coming,” he said.
Izzy Lynch and Alana McNulty scored two goals apiece when Niskayuna knocked off Bethlehem 5-2 for its second straight Section II championship. Piraino propelled Niskayuna into the final four, scoring the goal in a 1-0 regional win against Liverpool.
“She’s just a talent with the ball, and she has great vision,” Colby said. “She has 15 assists on top of the goals.”
Another goal would have put Niskayuna right back in the game.
“If Olivia gets that one, it’s a 2-2 game, and you never know,” Colby said.
Illinois commit Hope Breslin scored Massapequa’s first two goals — including a penalty kick — to boost her season total to 36, and assisted on Sierra Brophy’s clincher with 5:10 remaining.
“Hard to stomach. It’s frustrating,” Colby said. “Our kid gets flattened and they get a penalty kick. Izzy [Lynch] gets hit in the back and has a bloody nose, and nothing gets called.”
Breslin and Ericka Wasserbach were jostling for possession in the box and Wasserbach stumbled to the turf when Breslin was awarded the penalty kick. The Chiefs’ star senior deposited the ball into the low left corner 4:58 into the second half.
“I take our penalty kicks, so I’ve had a lot of practice,” Brelin said.
Breslin’s second goal with 26:47 left came on a hard drive to the upper left corner after she dribbled through the Niskayuna defense.
“Throughout the playoffs, we’ve been down 1-0 two or three times,” Breslin, the 2015 Gatorade New York Player of the Year, said. “Nothing new. We had to stay calm and play our game.”
Niskayuna continued to push for a goal after Brophy connected with 5:10 left.
“My kids played right through to the end,” Colby said. “They played as hard as they could. I’m proud.”
Niskayuna lost in the regionals last year 3-0 to Baldwinsville, the eventual state runner-up to Massapequa. Section II’s only state Class AA champ was Shenendehowa in 2004.
GENESEO 2, SCHOHARIE 1
Schoharie made a breakthrough at the state final four, but not the kind it wanted most.
Geneseo answered Addie Cornell’s goal 1:44 into Saturday’s game with a late tally in the first half and another early in the second to deal the Indians their third Class C semifinal loss in as many years at Cortland High School.
Schoharie lost those semifinals in 2014 and 2015 by shutout, and Cornell ended the scoring drought quickly with a successful direct kick from about 20 yards away.
“We were the last of the Section II teams here, and we were hoping to carry the Section II banner,” Schoharie co-coach Kevin Scofield said. “We have nothing to be ashamed of.”
The Indians (20-2) certainly do not after making another run to the final four, and outshooting the Blue Devils (Section V, 18-3-2) by a 23-9 margin once they hit the field.
“We had our chances,” Scofield said. “We outshot them. Their goalie made a couple of saves, and we missed a couple.”
Geneseo netminder Sasha Miller made 10 saves including a spectacular stop on a point-blank drive shortly after Grace Hainsworth had tied the game at one with 9:15 left in the opening half. The senior also made back-to-back stops during a scramble and Schoharie hit the crossbar soon after Victoria Finn’s game-deciding goal 11:44 into the second frame.
“That made me want to play better,” Miller said of Cornell’s goal.
Cornell poked the ball just under the crossbar to give Schoharie early momentum.
“I definitely thought this was going to the year, but I’m proud of these girls either way,” Cornell, a junior, said. “I’m really happy the team made it this far. It takes a lot of heart to get here.”
Schoharie made it back to the final four with cast made up of mostly underclassmen including goal-scoring leaders Carrie, Megan and Katie Krohn.
“We got here for the third time in a rebuilding year,” said Scofield, after Schoharie came within one win of breaking the school single-season record. “We’ll miss our six seniors, but the core will be back.”
Miller was shaken up making a diving save five minutes into the second half, and, after leaving the game, came back about five minutes later.
“She’s talented,” Carrie Krohn, a junior, said of Miller. “Everything happens for a reason. We just couldn’t get that extra goal.”
Finn assisted on Hainsworth’s goal, a short drive into the low left corner. Casey Vattimo assisted on Finns close-range game-winner on a volley.