DRYDEN — For the first time since 1998, Groton Central girls got to play for the Interscholastic Athletic Conference Overall Small School soccer championshiup.
The Indians did not squander the opportunity.
Sidney Reeves scored a pair of first half goals that Indian goalkeeper Paige Graham and the rest of the defense made hold up as Groton tripped up Spencer-Van Etten/Candor 2-1 Saturday at Tompkins Cortland Community College.
Groton improves to 13-1-1. S-VE/Candor slips to 11-4-1.
“It feels amazing,” Reeves said of taking the title. “Just to accomplish our end goal which we set early in the season is amazing. We have some very high standards and we executed today.
“I think I do have an advantage playing year round,” she added about her club play at the local and national level. “It has helped me build a great skill set that I can bring to the varsity level and succeed.”
“I am happy for the team,” senior goalkeeper Paige Graham said. “A lot of these girls were part of the softball team that won the division in the spring so we have had a taste of it and got to stand behind a banner.”
“There is a lot involved to get here,” Groton coach Dick Brecht said. “The seniors are real important to what we do. They have spent a lot of time playing soccer. They put in their time. Sidney is a six-year starter on varsity. Paige had been our keeper for five years. We have a lot of experience that paid off.
“We also have some great freshmen,” he added. “Everyone contributes. Everyone is a part of this.”
REEVES’ FIRST GOAL came with 20:31 left in the first half. The senior midfielder was 10 yards out towards the left post and punched the ball towards the right post for a 1-0 cushion.
The Indians kept the pressure on. Maggie Ossit just missed a shot at the right post as goalie Katie Slocum made the save. Lauren Reeves fired from the middle of the box and Slocum came up with another save. More pressure didn’t result in another goal until the final minute.
Sidney Reeves’ second goal came with 32.6 seconds left in the half. Ossit was in the middle the the box and Reeves again toward the left post. After three passes back and forth, Ossit got the ball to Reeves in almost the identical spot where she scored from the first time. Reeves hit the ball in the same spot to again beat Slocum (six saves) for the 2-0 lead and some much needed momentum.
“We have been practicing those little give-and-go passes between me and Maggie,” senior Reeves said. “I think we did a good job of executing it on that goal.”
Graham didn’t face a shot in the first half, but Spencer-Van Etten/Candor was able to generate more offense with the wind behind them in the second half. It really prevented the Indians from clearing the ball as easy, but Graham stood tall with three saves and a huge decision to challenge for the ball in the closing minutes.
“It is a difficult decision whether to come out or not,” Graham said. “I’ve been trained by my dad since sixth grade and I became the varsity goalkeeper in eighth grade. It’s been a little easier each year to know what to do. It’s just a gut feeling now whether to get the ball or not.
“I’m confident in my ability and in my defense,” she continued. We trust each other. No matter where the ball goes, we know how to position ourselves.”
Reeves got the first shot of the second half and a point-blank shot in the first minute that Slocum stopped. S-VE/Candor slowly began building momentum.
BEFORE THE MIDWAY point of the second half, Maggie Hollenbeck sent a drive over the cross bar from 21 yards and Searra Allen chipped a ball over the cross bar. Lindsey Hodges forced Graham to make a save and Hollenbeck fired a ball on target that Graham smothered with 18 minutes left.
As the game entered the final 10 minutes, Leah O’Connell sent a corner kick into the box and Mackenzie Grube redirect the ball, but Graham made the save again.
The Eagles’ pressure finally paid off when Hollenbeck got the ball to the top of the box and delivered a shot into the upper right corner to cut the Groton lead to 2-1.
Lilly McCormick bounced a shot of the post for Groton with 4:44 left.
S-VE/Candor had a chance to tie things up in the box, but Graham came out of the goal to get the ball out of the box among the scrambling players. One last Eagle shot by O’Connell banged off the goal post on a direct kick with two minutes remaining.
In a twist of irony, Groton will hosted S-VE/Candor Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in the Section 4 Class C Tournament quarterfinals. The Indians are the third seed and the Eagles are the sixth seed.
“They have a lot of good players,” Brecht said. “Today was really a feeling out process. We seem to be evenly matched. We each have a week to prepare and make some minor tweaks. I like having a home game.”
IN THE IAC Large School Championship, Elmira Notre Dame was a 1-0 winner over Lansing.