The Schalmont girls’ soccer team returns to Rotterdam with a little souvenir for the rest of the school.
The first state championship plaque in program history.
The Sabres finished their 23-0-0 season with a 4-0 win Sunday over Section V’s Greece Odyssey in the Class B state championship at Tompkins-Cortland Community College.
“It was the perfect season for us, 23-0, and we ended 4-0. We won states,” Schalmont leading scorer Megan Strijek said. “We couldn’t ask for anything better right now, especially us seniors. It’s the perfect way to end our senior year.”
For the second time in as many days, and against the state’s top competition in the semifinals and finals, Strijek recorded a natural hat trick with three straight goals. She finishes her career with 106 goals, her senior season with 47.
The Sabres also finished the season with five straight shutouts, a feat made more impressive with a first-year goalie who had never played soccer before this July. Karley Murray made four saves in the championship game to secure the shutout, but she gave a lot of credit to the defense played by the girls in front of her.
“I’m obsessed with my team. I could not ask for a better team,” Murray said. “I could not ask for a better season. 23-0? Oh, my God. It’s so awesome.
“My defense, honestly, would have to be the best defense all around, in Section II, and probably, I would say, anywhere in New York. I swear to God, my defense is the best. I couldn’t ask for better.”
It was just the program’s second trip to the state semifinals, its first trip to the championship. It was the first trip to the finals for Odyssey (17-3-3), as well.
As usual, the Sabres took a while to settle in. Odyssey controlled the first 10 minutes, then Strijek provided the usual calming agent.
It was set up by Rachael Gac carrying the ball into the penalty area and ripping a shot toward the far post from about 10 yards out. Odyssey goalie Paige Buchholz made a diving save, but couldn’t catch the ball. It glanced off her gloves to a waiting Strijek at the left side for a tap-in.
Gac also set up the third Strijek tally on a corner kick. The ball found Strijek at the near post for a well-placed header.
“Once again, it was a perfect ball from Rachael Gac,” Strijek said. “I had one from her yesterday. She’s an outstanding outside midfielder, and we always just connect.”
Strijek’s second goal was a chip shot from about 15 yards out on the right side. She sent it looping over Buchholz’s head and into the far side netting.
Sophomore Madeline Saccocio scored the fourth goal of the game in the 63rd minute, knocking it past Buchholz, who finished with five saves, from about eight yards out.
The Sabres also won the sportsmanship award, and Strijek won one of the two outstanding player awards. The other went to Odyssey’s Kelsey Lafferty, while Buchholz was awarded the outstanding goalkeeper award.
After the final whistle, the girls piled up in their own penalty area. Then a couple of them snuck up on coach Angelo Caschera with the water bucket, dousing the coach who led them to the title.
Caschera reflected on the championship medal hanging around his neck.
“I’ve been coaching for 11 years at Schalmont. For me, it means a lot,” he said. “These girls, I started coaching some of these girls when they were 10 or 11 years old. The reason we were doing that was so we could win a state championship, and finally we did it. It took a few years, but we did it.”
Caschera, as always, said how proud he was of his girls from one end of the field to the other. Twenty-three times this season, he gave them an opponent-specific game plan to master, and 23 times they absorbed everything he taught them and turned it into a win 80 minutes later.
“It’s been a long four months, but it’s worth it,” Caschera said. “All the time we put into it, we worked hard these four months. We didn’t think we were going to win all of it, but we knew we had a chance. We wanted to go game-by-game, and that’s what we did. We made an adjustment every time we played. Every game was different.
“We’re ready to play again. But I think that’s enough for now,” Caschera said. “It was a good season. It was just right.”
Northville’s bid for a first state soccer championship came up painfully short, as the Falcons fell to Chazy, 1-0, on a penalty kick with less than three minutes to play.
Kirsten Doren drilled home the PK with 2:21 to play, giving the Section VII school back-to-back state titles.
Kristi Bills made 10 saves for Northville, which finished 16-5-1, and was named outstanding goalkeeper in the final. Mary Ryan was selected as Northville’s player of the game.
Hoosick Falls failed to score a goal for only the second time all season, and had to settle for being named Class C state co-champions after playing a pair of 10-minute overtimes and two five-minute sudden death OTs against Friends Academy.
The Panthers, who finished 20-1-2, were looking for their second state title, having won in 2005.