GUILDERLAND CENTER — The Mechanicville girls’ soccer team showed that it plays without fear and will take on almost any competitor.
Class B Mechanicville raced and battled Guilderland in a non-league tilt, putting Class AA Guilderland back on its heals throughout the first half before suffering a 2-0 loss Saturday afternoon.
An emotionally charged Guilderland squad was led by junior Rose Leader’s first varsity goal on a corner kick midway through the second half. Sophomore Kendall Barnhart scored off of a Marie Bogue cross to seal the win.
“It was off of Bella’s [Isabella Walsh] corner kick, and we all ran to the ball,” Leader said. “I saw it going out at an angle and followed it. Maya [Kerr] had a great touch off her thigh, and I saw it coming towards me. I ran for it and took a shot.”
Leader was mobbed by her teammates for her first varsity tally.
“I was excited. Everyone started coming at me. I was overwhelmed, but excited,” she said. “Now I’m just processing it, and I’m really happy that it was my first goal.”
Guilderland added a more-finessed second goal when Bogue, a freshman, gained control of the ball in the defensive end and raced up the middle of the field providing a textbook pass to Barnhart who found the right side of the net.
“I told our girls at halftime the longer we keep them into the game, the longer they’re going to think that they’re going to win the game. That’s a problem. We had to get that first goal in,” Guilderland coach Curtis Snyder said. “Early on, they were all over the place, they had a lot of energy. We couldn’t connect passes, but I’m glad they overcame it.”
Mechanicville’s offense was laser-focused on creating opportunities throughout the first half, pressuring Guilderland with runs time and time again.
“It’s our weakness,” Mechanicville co-coach Karl Gerstenberger said. “We’re not able to maintain people forward, maintain that passing. We’ve got to be creative.
“From our backs and the defensive side of the ball, we couldn’t be any happier. The attack side, the hardest part, getting the ball back. We have work to do.”
Mechanicville was prepared to take on another Class AA school, playing to a 0-0 tie with Colonie earlier in the season in another non-league tilt while Curtis had to teach his players about their powerful upcoming opponent.
“These girls have never played Mechanicville, and they hear that they are a small school, their mentality is that OK, we’re going to get a win,” Snyder said. “I had to be clear, they’re legit. They have some girls’ going to D-I schools. I’ve been following their record, telling the girls the whole time. Even in the first half, we weren’t really ready for that style.”
The non-league matchup became part of Guilderland’s #JennaStrong fundraising efforts.
Jenna Meier is a Guilderland senior suffering from Ewing Sarcoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer that appears often in children and teenagers.
Meier’s cancer was discovered in February after suffering a collarbone break last July. She is undergoing chemotherapy treatment for a year.
“When I found out the boys had a game with [Mechanicville], I thought it would be nice to do a girls’ game the same day and we could make it a big #JennaStrong day,” Snyder said. “Everything fell into place. They were great about coming here. We’ll reciprocate next year.”
The boys’ contest ended in a 1-1 tie, with Mechanicville scoring the game-tying goal down a player due to a red card infraction.
The girls’ afternoon game also didn’t disappoint.
“We leave happy with the understanding that we have work to do and things that we want to continue to improve on,” Mechanicville co-coach Val D’Aloia said. “I think this was a good challenge and I think the Raiders are not afraid of a challenge.”
Halftime: Tied 0-0. Mechanicville scoring: None. Guilderland scoring: Leader 1-0, Barnhart 1-0, Walsh 0-1, Bogue 0-1. Goalies: Mechanicville, Izzo, 5 saves. Guilderland, Rollins, 7 saves.