This tme, the gunslinger ran out of bullets.
Schalmont, which had used a prolific offense to win 45 straight games over the past two seasons, saw its dreams of a second straight perfect season end Saturday morning in a 3-2 loss to Greece Odyssey in the Class B girls’ soccer state semifinals.
The Leopards, who fell to the Lady Sabres, 4-0, in the 2011 state title game, scored the first goal, capitalized on a pair of Schalmont defensive mistakes to take a 3-1 lead, then held off a frantic final 10 minutes as the Schalmont seniors fought desperately to extend their careers.
But as a flurry of shots sailed barely high or wide, the clock also worked against the defending state champions.
“The mindset is you always want to score more than the other team,” said senior Isabella Borini, whose work at central defender played a big part in her team’s surrendering a mere four goals in winning their first 22 games of the season. “Unfortunately, today we made a couple of mistakes on defense that made it too hard to come back,”
“We made a couple of mistakes. That’s what the difference was. We played a good game,” said Schalmont coach Angelo Caschera, who had previously said that this would be his final year. “I told the girls it would be a hard, hard game, and it was.”
The Leopards, who had been waiting a year for another crack at Schalmont, were more than happy to take advantage.of any mistake Schalmont made.
“We kind of revelled in the underdog role this time, said Leopards coach Nino Pilato. “I think the girls kind of held it inside all year.”
The Section V champs, playing in their fourth state semi, took a 1-0 lead when sweeper Kelsey Lafferty was first to a loose ball after a Greece Odyssey corner kick and hit a header from 30 yards away that got under the crossbar in the upper-left side of the Schalmont goal 10 minutes into the game.
“We’d been stressinig all week that we needed to jump on them early,” said Pilato. “We wanted to make sure they knew we were ready to play, and put them under pressure.”
Defensive midfielder Hailee Metzold got Schalmont even. finishing a long run through the middle of the field with a goal 5:44 from the end of the half.
Disaster first struck Schalmont with 12 seconds left in the half, when Emily Tucker’s harmless-looking 35-yard shot from just yards inside the sideline snuck between Lady Sabres goaltender Taylor Gould and the near post. Tucker struck again early in the second half, when her corner kick was misplayed and wound up in the Schalmont goal, delecting off Borini.
“I think the first goal was more important,” Pilato said. “It was a mental lift. They had only been scored on three or four times all year long. We harped at them to see if we could get that early goal and maybe rattle them a little bit.
“We knew they were a good team, from their stats and their record, and what they did to us last year.”
Caschera felt his team was OK after the first goal, seeing there was some 70 minutes to play.
“They got a goal, but then we got a goal and tied it.” said Caschera. “The second goal stunned us.”
While Metzold’s goal helped Schalmont get back square after playing from behind for just the second time all season, the second and third goals proved too much to overcome, even after Diana DiCocco got her 41st goal of the season to make it a one-goal game midway through the second half.
“Diana’s goal gave us a big lift,” said junior midfielder Madeline Saccocio. “The whole team got energized. We got shots, but nothing went in when we needed a goal at the end.”
“It’s very tough [playing from behind], because a lot of time you don’t get a lot chances to score,” said Borini, a standout in track and field who played in her final soccer game.
“It’s hard to play from behind,” Caschera said. “We kept going forward, but just couldn’t get that last goal.”
Schalmont threw more players into attack in the final minutes, and came agonizingly close to forcing overtime.
Senior Rachael Gac, who turned in a solid game at right outside midfield, kept drilling crosses and corner kicks into the heart of the Leopards’ defense. Her final corner kick of the game found its way to Ciara Vitallo at the far post, but her header was inches wide.
Borini ripped a shot just wide. Lafferty managed to turn away a DiCocco chance. Alexandra Cardinal drove a shot wide.
The effort for naught, the seniors slumped, physically and emotionally spent, many in tears, when time finally ran out on their magical two-year run.
“We’ve grown up together and most of us have played for the same coach since we were nine,” said Borini, speaking for herself and the other five senior starters. “If I had to go out like this, this is the group of girls I’d rather do it with.”
Saccocio gave the loss some perspective.
“I think they got a little better since last year,” said Saccocio of the Leopards. “Maybe that was the difference.”