MECHANICVILLE — As the pressure mounted in the Section II Class AA girls semifinal Wednesday night, the Shenendehowa girls’ squad didn’t wane or wilt, they embraced it.
Junior Emily Silva finished what she had dreamed about — sending the ball off her left foot into the back corner for the game-winning goal.
She delivered with 26 minutes left in regulation and the Plainsmen made the single goal stand, turning back Bethlehem 1-0 at Mechanicville High School.
“Sometimes you just see it in your mind, and you replay it to yourself over and over and say I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it and it just happens,” Silva said.
Georgia Greene sent the ball into the left end of the Eagles defensive end when Silva played an arching ball toward the mouth of the goal. Bethlehem goalkeeper Sophia Soka leaped up and attempted to push the ball out of the goal area. The ball sailed over her outstretched hands, ricocheted off the far post before bouncing lightly backwards into the goal as Soka attempted to grab it before it crossed the goal line.
Silva also delivered on her coach’s halftime instructions.
“I think she was doing a great job in the first half kind of dumping balls in,” Shenendehowa coach Holli Nirsberger said. “At halftime we said listen, they’re expecting you to just dump those balls in, let’s go at it. Go out near the near post and have the shot. She’s our Brazil, our player of the match today for a reason.”
The top-seeded Plainsmen pressured Bethlehem and its goalie, Soka, throughout the contest, but failed to convert those attempts into a goal, frustrating the coaches and the players.
“We got our quality opportunities in the first half; our leading conversation is those opportunities have to be converted to goals,” Nirsberger said. “At this point of the season, we can’t afford to be great ball Silva, great ball Silva. We talk about timing of the runs, angle of the runs and being there to convert those beautiful balls to goals.”
Soka managed to turn back Shenendehowa senior forward Brooke DelSignore throughout the match Wednesday night, keeping her scoreless against her eight shots against the Bethlehem goalkeeper.
“Isolated 1-v-1 I think she did a great job making those saves, but she’s [DelSignore] going to bury those 9 times out of 10,” Nirsberger said. “She’s pretty frustrated right now, but those goals will fall next game.”
That next game is noon Saturday against Columbia at Stillwater High School. The No. 3 seeded Blue Devils defeated No. 2 seeded Shaker 1-0 when Ella Hebler connected on a textbook header with 35 seconds left in regulation from a corner kick by Isabella Siebert in a 2-1 win in the opening contest Wednesday.
The Plainsmen will look to avenge its only league loss of the season at the hands of Columbia, 3-1 on the road on Oct. 2.
“It’s what we wanted,” Nirsberger said. “We want a little re-match there.”
Section II Class AA semifinals
SHENENDEHOWA 1, BETHLEHEM 0
Halftime: No score. Shenendehowa scoring: Silva 1-0. Bethlehem scoring: None. Goalies: Shenendehowa, Pflomm, 8 saves. Shaker, Soka, 10 saves.
COLUMBIA 2, SHAKER 1
Halftime: Tied 1-1. Columbia scoring: Hebler 1-0, Ring 1-0, Siebert 0-1. Shaker scoring: Wells 1-0. Goalies: Columbia, Langlais, 5 saves. Shaker, McCulloch, 9 saves.