Jeanne Frevola asks her players to jot down their goals before every field hockey season.
“Usually, the big one is to win the Section II title,” said the veteran Shenendehowa coach. “This is the first group that put on their goal list, ‘Win the state title.’”
The Lady Plainsmen did that in a dramatic way Sunday, erasing a two-goal halftime lead that Sachem East had built before Anna Bottino scored the game-winner in a one-on-one overtime shootout.
The 3-2 win gave Shenendehowa its first championship, and ended a lengthy drought by Section II teams at the state Class A level. Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake was the last area large-school team to go the distance in 1987.
“I feel so proud of everyone,” said Bottino, a senior forward. “The feeling of winning for your school and going this far, it’s the best.”
Sachem East (Section XI, 21-1) was the best in the state the last two years, but was denied a three-peat by the gritty Lady Plainsmen led by Bottino. The tournament all-star sustained a sprained right ankle after getting tripped up midway through the first half, and after missing about eight minutes to get taped up, came back and never came off the Cicero-North Syracuse High School turf field.
“She was definitely the MVP today,” said Frevola. “Her effort was something else, and she did it on that ankle. Did you see it? it’s huge.”
“I kind of forgot about it and just played,” said Bottino, after emerging from their C-NS training room with a big bag of ice on her ankle. “We had an objective, and it was to win.”
Anna Branch put the clamps on standout Sachem East playmaker Katie Trombetta after she set up the game’s first two goals, Molly Hagen and Rachel Picchi delivered for the Lady Plainsmen (20-2) in the second half, and Bottino had a hand in both of those tallies as a prelude to her last significant contribution of the postseason.
Bottino also scored when Shenendehowa edged Niskayuna for the Section II title, 1-0, and notched the first two goals in Saturday’s 4-0 victory over Fairport. Bottino picked up three assists when the Lady Plainsmen beat Fayetteville-Manlius, 5-1, for their first regional championship.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do that unless Melissa Nealon made those stops,” Bottino said of the senior netminder, who, along with Erin Buckley, was named to the all-tournament team. “She played a great game, and kept us in it.”
Nealon made eight saves in regulation and the two 10-minute seven-on-seven overtimes, and stopped a penalty shot in the one-on-one shootout after coming out of the crease and colliding with Cara Trombetta.
“I guessed, kind of,” Nealon said. “I looked at where her stick was, and got a glove on it.”
Bottino was the last athlete to go in the shootout, after four of her teammates and five from Sachem East came up empty on 10-second bids starting from the 25-yard line.
Bottino dribbled directly toward the cage, went right at about the eight-yard line and fired the ball. Sachem East goalie Desteny Holder made a stop, but went down while doing so, and Bottino collected the rebound and drove the ball over her and into the far left corner.
“After she made the stop, I was all right. I composed myself and looked to see what was open,” said Bottino.
Aside from her save in the one-on-one shootout, Nealon came out of crease and broke up three plays, while another Sachem East bid ended on a drive that hit the outside of the cage. Caroline Cady nailed the right post on Shenendehowa’s first attempt, and Holder stopped a shot by Buckley while another went wide and another hit the side of the cage.
“That’s the first time in a game we’ve done it [one-on-one shootout]. We did it in scrimmages,” said Nealon. “My thought was, ‘See the ball. Save the ball.’ ”
Holder made seven saves before the shootout, including a sprawling stop on a drive by Buckley just before the second half ended. Buckley’s bid ended a frantic and productive second half by the Lady Plainsmen.
“They wanted it. You could tell,” said Nealon. “Their passes got better. They were running as hard as they could. Once we got our stuff together in the second half, things started to happen.”
“Right away in the second half, you could feel the energy,” said Bottino.
Picchi tipped the ball past Holder after Buckley unleashed a drive from the top of the circle with 3:34 left in the second half to tie the contest. The goal came on a penalty corner that Bottino started with an insert feed to Buckley.
Hagen scored with 22:47 remaining in the half. Bottino handled a penalty-corner insert from Hagen up top and dribbled around two defenders before dishing toward the cage.
“We were putting pressure on them in the first half,” said Frevola. “At the half, I told the girls to get their heads up and keep pushing. We kept feeding the ball in there, and got sticks on things.”
Kelly McKeveny scored from close range for the Flaming Arrows 3:44 into the game after handling a feed from Katie Trombetta. Trombetta also assisted on a goal by fellow all-tourney pick Kathryn Doherty with 13:34 left in the half.
“They’re very, very talented, but we’re pretty strong, too,” said Frevola.