Schalmont has put together one of the top two-year runs in Section II girls’ soccer history.
With two wins this weekend in the state Class B final four, the Lady Sabres can become the first Capital Region team to post consecutive unbeaten state title seasons.
“Ten girls — half of this team — was there last year. They know what it’s all about,” said Angelo Caschera, who has guided this year’s team to a 22-0-0 record as a followup to last fall’s 23-0-0 state championship run.
Schalmont takes on Section V’s Greece Odyssey in a Class B state tourney semifinal Saturday at 9:30 a.m. at Cortland High School.
Guilderland, in its first venture outside of the section in postseason play, meets Webster Thomas from Section V in a 5 p.m. Class AA semi, also at Cortland High School.
Hoosick Falls, a co-champ a year ago, meets Friends Academy (Section VIII) in a noon Class C semi at Tompkins-Cortland Community College.
Schalmont beat Greece Olympia, 4-0, in last year’s state final. While that result gives the Lady Sabres something to go on, they are taking nothing for granted.
“They’re going to be coming for blood. We denied them a state title last year,” said senior defender Isabella Borini.
The Leopards have seven players back who started in the 2011 final, including leading scorer Liz Dohr.
“We both had a game the day before, we were both tired,” said senior midfielder Alexandra Cardinal of the teams’ previous meeting. “I don’t really know what to expect.”
“We don’t know how they played this year, but we have some idea from last year,” said senior outside midfielder Rachael Gac. “But from here out, everybody wants to win a state title.”
“Their midfield was very good last year, so that’s something I’ll be watching,” said Caschera, who has seen his last four teams put together a 77-2-1 record. “I have a feeling the first half is going to be really tough. If we play good, even if its 0-0, I think we’ll be in good shape.”
Caschera’s optimism is based on numbers. Schalmont has scored 143 goals this season and surrendered four. Diana DiCocco leads the team with 40 goals, while Allie Gallo, Gac, Cardinal, Ciara Vitallo and Madeline Saccocio are also capabale of putting the ball in the net.
Niskayuna is the only other girls’ program in the section to repeat as state champions, winning the Class B title in 1993 and following with Class A championships the following two seasons.
This weekend also marks the end of a long association between players and coach.
“I think playing together since we were little makes a difference,” said senior midfielder Ciara Vitallo. “I’ve got pictures of Rachael and I from when we were playing together when we 5.”
“I started coaching a lot of this group when they were 12 years old,” said Caschera, who is stepping down after 11 years as varsity head coach. “That’s why I stayed on one more year. I knew there was a chance to win states again.
“We want him to go out with a bang,” said Borini.
Guilderland is making some history of its own, appearing in its first state semifinal.
“This is incredible, to know that we’re one of the four best Class AA teams in the state,” said senior goalkeeper Jenna Cubello.
“At the beginning of the season, we had some goals. We wanted to beat Shaker and Bethlehem and go farther in sectionals,” said senior forward Laurie Knapp. “I think we felt we had a good team, but we didn’t know if we’d be able to do this.”
The Lady Dutch beat Shaker in the sectional semis before ending Bethlehem’s run of Section II titles at four. Guilderland knocked off Section III champion Liverpool, 2-1, last weekend.
The players point to a 4-1 early-season win over Shaker as a turning point in the season. The Lady Dutch, were 3-2-1 going into that game, and take a 16-3-1 mark into the state semifinals.
“That game showed us how good we are. This is a great way for the seniors to finish up,” said senior Angela Luizzi, who scored the goal in her team’s 1-0 win over Shaker in the sectional semifinals and also scored against Liverpool.
Senior midfielder Ali Cardinal pointed to the win over Bethlehem as a big boost.
“Bethlehem had that run, and ending that was a big thing,” she said. “The beginning of the season, I didn’t know we’d be here. I hoped we would.”
Leading scorer Jess Capone agreed.
“When we held up that plaque, it was a special moment, especially for the seniors,” she said. “We’re hoping we get a chance to play for a state title.”
Senior defender Jenna Walsh felt a preseason camp helped prepare the Lady Dutch for both the tough Suburban Council season and the postseason.
“It was the worst experience and the best experience at the same time. It set the bar for the season,” she said. “It started there, and since then we’ve been close.
“To get this far, especially being a senior and knowing this is your last weekend playing, it’s a great feeling.”
“It’s a long season, and you need to do different things to keep them going,” said second-year head coach Curtis Snyder, whose club also had some team yoga sessions during the season. “They’ve really come together as a group, and you can see it on the field.”
Snyder, whose father, Don, coached the Guilderland boys to seven Section II championships and one state title, knows what this weekend’s experience means to both this year’s team and the program.
“For the seniors, this is a chance to end their high school careers in a big way,” he said. “For the younger kids, it’s a chance for them to see this, and want to come back and do it again.”
Hoosick Falls (19-2-0) has outscored five postseason foes 30-1, a 4-0 win over AuSable Valley in last weekend’s regional its closest game.
Freshman Jordyn Haynes (30 goals) and senior Grace Delurey (26 goals) lead a potent offense. Alice Hayden heads a defense that has posted 11 shutouts.
Unbeaten Ichabod Crane (Class B), Hoosick Falls (Class C) and Fort Ann (Class D) will play boys’ state semifinals Saturday at Middletown High School.
Ichabod Crane (20-0-1) gets Section IV champ Susquehanna Valley at 4:15; Hoosick Falls (17-5-0) meets Lansing of Section IV at 11:15 a.m.; and Fort Ann (16-3-1) gets Jasper-Troupsburg of Section V as the Cardinals make their third straight trip to the state final four.