MECHANICVILLE — Ally Ross had an idea. Lexie Thompson had the good fortune of being left unmarked in a tense Section II Class AA semifinal girls' soccer game that rarely saw anyone open.
Thompson's goal following a corner kick by Ross in the first overtime lifted Niskayuna to a 1-0 win over rival Shenendehowa on Wednesday at Mechanicville High School.
With the victory, Niskayuna (No. 2 seed, 15-2-1) completed a two-game season sweep of Shenendehowa (No. 3, 10-4-3), and avenged a 2018 semifinal loss to the Plainsmen, as well as a 2017 title-game loss.
"This feels real good," Ross, a senior striker, said after Niskayuna earned a chance at its third Section II championship in five years. "We wanted to get over the hump. We lost to them 4-0 last year [in the semifinals]. Last year didn't end the way we wanted."
Wednesday's game, however, did, as Niskayuna secured a title-game spot alongside Bethlehem.
Thompson scored her first varsity goal from eight yards away, heading Ross' long feed off the crossbar and in with 3:38 to go in the first of two 10-minute overtimes.
"I tried to get it to her on one [corner kick] before, in the first half," Ross said. "Their defense was all in the box. I knew she [Thompson] could head it because I saw her do it in practice. She sticks out because she's so tall."
"Ally crosses so well," Thompson, a junior center back, said. "I couldn't have done it without her."
Ross and Thompson connected on the last of seven corner kicks awarded to Niskayuna.
Niskayuna junior Lindsay Matthews almost made it 2-0 with 1:48 left in the first OT when her drive from 25 yards away nailed to left post.
"I saw it coming," Thompson said. "I knew I had to get it now. I had to do it for the seniors. I saw it hit the crossbar, and I was so happy."
"We play a zone on corners," Shenendehowa coach Holli Nirsberger said. "We didn't pass our defense off. I am anxious to watch it on film to see exactly what happened.
Niskayuna senior Olivia Piraino kicked the ball off the crossbar early in the contest, and the ball took a downward direction similar to when Thompson scored.
"I didn't know if the goal would count," Ross said. "Olivia had an attempt that they didn't count."
Niskayuna junior goalkeeper Emma Anderson made the her last of nine saves in the second overtime, and was mobbed by her teammates at its conclusion.
Shenendehowa lost a key offensive threat with 7:40 left in the first half when senior midfielder Danielle Casey sustained a broken wrist on a collision.
"Losing Danielle was a huge hit. My heart breaks for her, going out like that to end her career," Nirsberger said. "The girls rallied behind her, and I am so proud of them. They played well. They played hard."
A holdover from Niskayuna's last Section II title team in 2016, Piraino unleashed a drive that went just wide with five seconds left in regulation.
Late in the first half, Shenendehowa senior goalkeeper Meaghan Mahar denied Piraino with one of her eight saves.
Bethlehem (No. 1, 17-1) defeated Shaker (No. 4, 10-4-3) in Wednesday's other semifinal 5-2 and will go after its second consecutive Class AA crown Saturday at 3 p.m. at Mechanicville. Bethlehem beat Shenendehowa 2-1 in the 2018 Section II final on its way to a state title-game appearance.
Anna Nichols scored two goals for Bethlehem Wednesday, and Claire Hutton, Ruth Hotaling and Bea Jones also scored.