The full return of high school sports was marked by a series of high-profile soccer games in the first full week of October. Perhaps the best of them was a game Wednesday night between Poland, the state Class D champions in 2019, and Central Valley Academy, who nearly won the state Class B title last fall. Both teams had started 2-0, with the Thunder netting 11 goals in its first game against Utica-Notre Dame. Here, CVA and Poland battled in classic cold, windy conditions, and were tied late in regulation before Alexis Bates scored with less than eight minutes left. From there, Poland held on to prevail 2-1, and it’s doubtful the Tornadoes might face anyone as good the rest of the season.
Elsewhere in girls soccer, there were other big-time early showdowns. Baldwinsville got revenge for its defeat to West Genesee in the 2019 sectional Class AA semifinals, winning their opener 3-0 and then seeing Hannah Mimas get a hat trick to beat Liverpool, also 3-0. Then in a stretch of four days over the weekend, B’ville would face Class A power Jamesville-DeWitt, then the Red Rams would get Fayetteville-Manlius Saturday, the Hornets having seen Lauren Clark score five goals in two early-season wins, and finally on Columbus Day at high noon it’s B’ville against F-M, two sides who split their regular-season meetings a year ago but never met in the playoffs, the Hornets having reached the state Class AA title game.
Now in boys soccer, the big story was just how mad Fayetteville-Manlius was after getting knocked off by Liverpool last fall in the sectional Class AA quarterfinals. It happened that the Hornets opened against the Warriors – and it turned out 7-0, followed by F-M handling Cicero-North Syracuse 5-1 as, in those two games, the brother tandem of Nino and Cheech Pagano each scored three-goal hat tricks and combined for nine goals overall. All of this added to the anticipation of what takes place next Monday afternoon, when F-M faces Baldwinsville, the reigning sectional champions, as the Bees needed overtime to edge West Genesee 2-1 before a more comfortable 2-0 win over Liverpool.
At the end of this week, the last two boys soccer state Class B champions will meet, 2018 champion Westhill against 2019 champion Skaneateles. Neither team had played much yet, and neither had their main rivals, Marcellus sidelined for a while over COVID-19 concerns at their school (but ultimately returning) and Cazenovia, in its first game, showing some quality by bashing Tully 9-1. Bishop Grimes, last year’s sectional Class C champions, was moved up to Class B this fall, but did so just as top scorers Deng Mawien and Byam Mugushu graduated, and their absence was quite felt in the Cobras’ season opener, Grimes overwhelmed by Manlius-Pebble Hill in a 4-0 defeat which displayed the Trojans’ quality.
And field hockey is underway. No one got more of a chance to play, and no one found more success, than Cicero-North Syracuse, who shut out Liverpool and Canastota and then, pushed by Cortland, pulled out a last-second 1-0 victory over the Purple Tigers. All of this was a prelude to Friday night’s early-season showdown against Fayettville-Manlius, who went 1-0-1 in its first two games, beating Liverpool and then going 0-0 against Cazenovia. Camden, for so long a powerhouse, found itself surprised 1-0 by Clinton in their season opener, while Weedsport, who would face Cazenovia later in the week, started quite strong by shutting out Homer 3-0, gaining a pair of goals by Suzie Nemec.
The busy boys golf season runs toward an early conclusion, having managed to get most of their matches in before the weather turned worse. In the SCAC Metro division C-NS Blue, the 2019 Class AA sectional team champions, won a battle of undefeated teams with Fayetteville-Manlius, the two sides battling for league honors with Baldwinsville. The SCAC Empire division has seen Jamesville-DeWitt dash to the top of the standings, having Over in the fall version of the Onondaga High School League, it’s been Westhill and Cazenovia who have pulled off the best starts, the Warriors again led by Anthony Maglisco as Alex Moesch has pushed the Lakers to an 8-1 overall record with a few matches left.
Usually high school girls tennis teams open their seasons in late August. Instead they had to get going in the early days of October, and of the teams that did get in some matches in between some rainouts, West Genesee emerged 2-0 thanks to some victories over Auburn and Cicero-North Syracuse, led by Katie Viau and Angelina Llanos, two players who reached the state tournament in 2019 in doubles but wouldn’t have a chance this fall. Other teams would hope to get in approximately eight to 10 matches, but were already getting derailed, to some degree, as on Wednesday afternoon a pair of rainstorms postponped all matches, forcing yet another round of schedule scrambling.
There is also some cross country league races taking place. Last Saturday East Syracuse Minoa swept Central Square, though the Redhawks turned around to sweep Cortland a few days later as Chittenango swept Bishop Grimes. The large-school teams will do most of their meets on Saturday mornings, but meanwhile the top runners go out and seek any kind of competition they can. Tully’s Brooke Rauber, the four-time state champion bound for North Carolina State, went to two different 5,000-meter races in New Jersey and, on each occasion, won those races with relative ease and, by doing so, broke the Section III record for the distance in events about as high-profile as they will get this fall.
Oh yes, and the legend of Breanna Stewart continues to grow. Coming all the way back from an Achilles injury that sidelined her in 2019, Stewart led the Seattle Storm to the second WNBA championship of her tenure. In a season-long bubble in Bradenton, Florida, the Storm had the best overall record, tore through the playoffs and then swept the Las Vegas Aces in three games in the championship round. During the playoffs, Stewart averaged 25.7 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game, adding to a ridiculous resume that included her two state titles at Cicero-North Syracuse, the four NCAA titles at UConn, her WNBA accolades and an Olympic gold medal earned in Rio in 2016.
And when the NHL Draft was held virtually early this week, two Central New York products were taken in the early stages. The Montreal Candiens chose, 47th overall, Baldwinsville’s Luke Tuch, the younger brother of Alex Tuch, who has already established his stardom with the Vegas Golden Knights. Luke is a freshman at Boston University and it’s unsure whether he will stay in college, though the lack of certainty about a college season might change things. Then, a Marcellus native, Eamon Powell, was chosen in the fourth round by the Tampa Bay Lightning, the reigning Stanley Cup champions, which means if Powell’s development goes well, he might end up with the Syracuse Crunch at some point in the future.