Nearing the end of April, the hope of any kind of high school spring sports continued to wane. No state in America got hit harder than New York State in terms of COVID-19, though the vast majority of cases and fatalities came from New York City and Long Island. Still, schools across the state closed in mid-March and he New York State Public High School Athletic Association was clear from the outset that no sports practices or games would take place until schools opened, and it would take a week or two of practices before games were even possible, even if it sacrificed state tournaments and it could only take place within sectional borders. All the decisions on this season are close at hand.
So in this space to go back to the seasons that did take place, including girls soccer, where Poland achieved perfection. Already holders of a state championship earned in 2012, the Tornadoes had remained a strong team the rest of the decade and, by 2019, it all gelled together again. Poland played 16 regular-season games and won all of them, with only two opponents, Remsen (in a 2-1 game) and Old Forge (in a 1-0 game) getting close. Then again, the Tornadoes netted 11 in its other game against Old Forge, put up nine against Hoosick Valley and Hamilton, and eight four different times. Five different players netted double-digit goals, led by Riley Wisehart, who poured in 44 goals and added 12 assists.
Once in the post-season, Poland girls soccer remained unstoppable, demolishing Stockbridge Valley, DeRuyter, McGraw and Copenhagen by a combined 24-1 margin, capped by defeating Copenhagen 4-1 in the sectional finals. Then, after a 3-1 win over Marathon in the regional finals, it was on to the state final four in the Cortland-Homer area. The Tornadoes handled Northville 5-0 in the state semifinals and went into the championship game against Avoca, where a first-half scoring blitz settled matters quite early and Poland prevailed 6-1. Once this 23-0 season was concluded, Poland’s long-time head coach, Tom Basel, decided to step down, maybe figuring that he could never top perfection.
Up in Class AA girls soccer, the season began with Fayetteville-Manlius as the defending sectional champions, having ended a long title drought when it knocked off top-seeded Baldwinsville in a rain-soaked final. The Hornets returned most of its lineup, including Anna Hartzheim, and once again B’ville was the main competition in the AA ranks. They played two regular-season games and split them, and everyone figured that a third encounter would take place in the sectional final. That never materialized, though, as West Genesee, who lost twice to B’ville in the regular season, stunned the Bees 2-0 in the semifinals, freeing F-M from its main obstacle, for the Hornets would then take out the Wildcats 3-0 in the championship round.
F-M girls soccer had not made it past the regional round in 2018. This time, though, the Hornets did get through in a memorable battle against Bethlehem where it blew a 2-0 lead in regulation and trailed 3-2 in the first overtime period, only to make it back and win 4-3, Lauren Clark scoring all four of those goals. Then, at SUNY-Cortland for the state final four, F-M faced more excitement, with Clark’s second-half goal the difference in a tough 2-1 win over Massapequa that put the Hornets into the final. Against Monroe-Woodbury, the defending state champions, F-M had all kinds of good chances, but the one goal the Crusaders put up led to a 1-0 defeat, the Hornets one win short of the ultimate prize.
The other Section III girls soccer team that nearly won a state title was Central Valley Academy in Class B. Almost by themselves, the Thunder shifted the balance of power from the Onondaga High School League, where Marcellus and Westhill had ruled for so long, to the east, where during a 13-2-1 regular season CVA established its credentials. Then it won four times during the sectional playoffs, starting with shutouts over Mount Markham (4-0) and South Jefferson (1-0), and then surviving a 2-1 semifinal against Holland Patent before toppling Westhill 3-1 in the championship game. Through it all, Reilly Rich emerged as one of the state’s best players, finishing her season with 46 goals and 17 assists.
As if achieving the program’s first-ever sectional title wasn’t enough, Central Valley Academy girls soccer went much further in the Class B state tournament. First, the Thunder won 4-1 over Northeastern Clinton and 6-3 over Schalmont in the regional rounds, Reilly Rich pouring in five goals in the second of these games. Moving to SUNY-Cortland for the state final four, CVA buried Babylon 5-1 in the semifinals with four goals from Jazmyn Gillette, and a day later, in the state final against Section II’s Pleasantville, the Thunder were up 2-0 and on the brink of the big prize before Pleasantville rallied, tying it and then scoring in the last seconds of regulation to prevail 3-2, a shocking end to what was CVA’s dream season.
Then there was the continual quest of Jamesville-DeWitt girls soccer to end its long wait for a state Class A championship. A decade of dominance at the sectional level and several state final four trips had not yet yielded victory in the final game of the fall, and with most of its lineup back from 2018, the Red Rams were convinced that 2019 would finally be the year. At least up to the sectional finals, all went smoothly for J-D, who did take a loss to Central Square, but otherwise went 14-0-1 in the regular season and, when it came time to face the Redhawks again in the sectional finals, it was all Red Rams in a 3-0 victory where Grace Dimkopoulos, Megan Baker and Denise Yaeger netted the goals in J-D’s effort.
What followed in the state Class A tournament for J-D girls soccer was yet another instance of ultimate disappointment. The potent Red Rams offense that was so good all season vanished in the regional final against Mohonasen, a tense 110-minute affair that ended up scoreless and settled in penalty kicks, where J-D fell behind 2-0 but stopped everything after, scored the last three goals and got to yet another state final four. Paired up against Long Island’s Shoreham-Wading River in the semifnals at SUNY-Cortland, J-D never got anything going on offense and lost, 1-0, a frustrating result made even more so by the fact that, 24 hours later, SWR were the state champions, having blanked Section V’s Spencerport 2-0.
Finally, there was Class C girls soccer, where Little Falls emerged as the sectional champions following an 18-3 season. The Mounties started 9-0 and then, once the sectional playoffs hit, it cranked up the offense, Little Falls handling Sauquoit Valley (a frequent past sectional champion) 5-1 in the opening round and blanking Tully 5-0 in the quarterfinals led by Gabriella Sylstra’s hat trick. The next two rounds proved tougher as the Mounties made it past Westmoreland 2-1 in the semifinals and, by that same score, found a way to beat Waterville in the sectional final, the game decided in penalty kicks. In the regional round, Little Falls’ championship season was ended by Unatego in a 2-0 defeat.