LANSINGBURGH — Was there ever any doubt?
Well, the Schalmont girls’ soccer team scored less than a half-minute into the game, but that goal was wiped out.
And Mechanicville hung around, scoring with 18:10 left in the game to offer an opportunity for doubt to creep in.
Then the ball rolled toward the Mechanicville’s goal line out of a jumble of players fielding a corner kick, and it took a moment for the officials to make the call. Was it a goal?
Ultimately, the only thing that mattered was the Sabres’ determination to not have this season end like the last one, and because of that, doubt never made an appearance at Lansingburgh High School on Friday. Schalmont won 3-1 to earn the Section II Class B championship, the Sabres’ fourth sectional title in the last five years, and a fitting answer to an overtime loss to Holy Names at this point of the 2018 season.
“Oh, it was where we get our motivation from,” junior Teghan Older said. “Coming into the year, we knew that we never wanted to lose like that again. We knew we wanted to win sectionals, and even regionals and even states. We’re going all the way.
“It was bad in the moment, but we didn’t let it affect us this season. It only pushed us harder.”
“Last year was our motivation to get this again this year, and we did it and we’re very happy about that,” Schalmont senior Sofia Cassano said.
“I think we can go all the way. We just have to keep working together. We have a lot of heart, and if we use that, I think we can possibly win.”
Schalmont, the No. 2-ranked Class B team in the state, improved to 17-2-1 and will play the Section X representative in a sub-regional game at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at Lansingburgh.
Cassano had a goal and an assist, and Older had two assists, including the high-arcing corner kick that led to the clinching goal with 16:23 left in the game, less than two minutes after Mechanicville had scored to stay close.
The Sabres struck right from the opening kickoff, but Older’s goal on a pass from Cassano was ruled offsides.
Schalmont kept the pressure on in the opening minutes, including a hard shot from Gianna Viscusi off a through ball by Cassano that headed straight at Mechanicville keeper Savannah Bowie for an uncomplicated save. It proved to be an omen.
Cassano cleaned up a loose ball near the Red Raiders’ goal line after Older had flicked it toward net from in close off the outside of her foot to give Schalmont a 1-0 lead with 4:29 left in the first half.
Less than six minutes into the second, Cassano pushed a beautiful through ball up the middle, Viscusi got behind the Mechanicville defense and only needed to redirect it a few degrees to get it past Bowie and inside the left post for a 2-0 lead.
“I knew I had two men on my back, so I just spun and I saw that through ball and just nipped it right enough for her to be able to touch and get the goal,” Cassano said.
“Sofia will look for that, if she’s not up top,” Schalmont coach Ryan Fries said. “She’s really a playmaker. We have her up top because she can score, but she can play that midfield position and look for plays and open up the field a little bit with through balls or even over the top. She has the ability to put the ball almost wherever she wants it, which is a vital role for us.”
The score stood at 2-0 through the midway point of the second half, then Mechanicville got one back when Nevaeh D’Aloia arced a long shot from straight on that descended toward the crossbar.
Sabres goalie Kierstin Lynch timed her jump properly and got two hands on it, but the ball popped up and off the underside of the crossbar to cut it to 2-1 with 18:10 left in the game.
“We’ve been in that situation, so we wanted to take them back to realize the game’s not over, this is still do-able and to keep the pedal down and keep playing our game,” Mechanicville co-coach Val D’Aloia said, of the coaches’ halftime message.
Schalmont iced it off Older’s big corner kick, which sailed into the box and was headed by Ashley Cirilla.
There seemed to be some hesitation over whether it was a good goal, but with 16:23 left, the Sabres had a 3-1 lead and were well on their way to the next round.
“There was no doubt in my mind that it went in,” Older said. “I was just waiting for them to blow the whistle and say that it was a goal. It’s just exciting. I was so ecstatic.”
“It’s always a big goal, to get that third one,” Fries said. “You just don’t want to give any team a chance to come back. So for the future, we need to make sure we finish. At the end of the day, we still won, but we had a lot of opportunities that could’ve done in the back of the net.”
Schalmont’s only two losses this season were to Mohonasen, the No. 1 Class A team in the state.
The Sabres won a state championship in 2015 and appear to be primed for another deep run. Friday’s game was an important step, not just to advance, but to wash away last year’s season-ending loss in the sectional title game.
“They play for each other,” Fries said. “The skill is there, but as far as [being] special, this group of girls works for each other, they respect us and they’re willing to work hard all the time. They just have that mentality. It’s hard to find that, but deep down they want to win and be successful and work together.”
Mechanicville finishes 15-4-1.
“It was kind of unexpected,” co-coach Karl Gerstenberger said. “We had a little bit of a slow start, 1-3, and to get here, it’s disappointing to lose in the finals again, the second time in three years. But overall, you would take this type of season. The girls played great. They gave great effort tonight. You can’t fault them for how they played.”