There was a bit of irony involved in the No. 6 Cincinnatus girls’ soccer team’s Section 3 Class D semifinal game against seventh-seeded Waterville Wednesday night at Chittenango High.
After a 1-1 tie in regulation, two 10-minute overtimes and two five-minute sudden death sessions, the result was officially a tie. But someone had to move on to the 7:30 p.m. championship game Saturday at the SUNY Cortland Sports Complex. It so happened that the Red Lions already had some shootout experience. And they got it at, of all places, Waterville, in their September season-opener, a three-round loss to Dolgeville in the first round of Waterville’s Tournament.
That experience served coach Mike Radziwon’s team (now 15-2-2) well, as a 3-1 win in the shootout meant a berth in the Class D final against No. 1 Poland, which improved to 17-2 with a 4-0 win over No. 4 Morrisville-Eaton (10-4-4) in Wednesday’s other semifinal.
“I knew that losing to Dolgeville in the shootout would help the girls if they had to go through another one,” Radziwon said. “Since then we’ve practiced penalty kicks every other day in practice. The five we used tonight know they’re going, and in what order. They tried to argue with me about it, but it’s what we practiced and what we’re doing.”
It was also what worked.
Waterville, which closed at 12- 5-2, went first, and its first two shooters hit the crossbar while the first two Red Lions — junior forward Delaney Rutan and senior midfielder Kylie Eaton — beat Indians senior goalie Rachel Scoones. Waterville senior midfielder Aliah Decker and Cincy junior midfielder Montana Wolf both scored to make it 3-1 for the Red Lions with two rounds left. That meant another Waterville miss would end it, and that’s what happened as Cincy junior goalie Kara Steacy batted away a high shot to her left from Waterville senior defender Lexi Johnson to send her teammates happily running to mob her.
That save was a bit of redemption for Steacy after Waterville junior midfielder Molly Williams had lofted a shot from 30 yards out that just got over the fingertips of the leaping Cincy keeper, under the crossbar and into the net to tie the game at 1-1 with 3:38 left in regulation. It was the first goal Steacy and her defense had given up in the team’s three post-season games.
“I was watching (Johnson), watching her hips, and knew where she was going with her shot,” Steacy said of the penalty kick stop. “After their first shooter hit the crossbar, I knew where the second girl was going. After the goal in regulation I had to step up. It was nice. Everyone was cheering, and it didn’t sink in at first that I’d made the save.”
Rutan had opened the scoring in the game by beating Scoones on a breakaway for her 28th goal of the season with 17:44 left after taking a pass from junior defender Miranda Wolf, Montana’s twin sister. “I wasn’t losing, no matter what it took,” she said, her penalty kick scored on a low liner to the right. “I just gave both shots everything I had.”
“I knew I had to go left,” said Eaton, who went low in that direction with her shot. “I had to be sure, and when it left my foot I knew it was going in.”
“I don’t look at the goal,” Montana Wolf said. “I look at my feet until the ball’s in the back of the net. After losing the shootout against Dolgeville at Waterville, this is nice.”
The ball was on Cincy’s defensive end of the field for a good position of the first half, the most serious threat by eithther team a loose ball that got by Steacy to the right wing post and was cleared away by Cincy junior defender Gabbi Gallow inches from the goal line with 8:40 left in the half. The teams played even for the first 10 minutes in the second half before the Red Lions started taking charge, with a number of good chances, mostly from Rutan, who took over the game until she opened the scoring off Miranda Wolf’s assist.
That in turn sparked the Indians, who tied it on Williams’ long shot. Waterville had the territorial advantage most of the rest of the way in regulation and the first three overtimes, Cincy coming on in the second of the two five-minute sessions. Neither squad could capitalize, though, necessitating the shootout.
“It felt like we were able to keep the momentum for a good part of the game,” Waterville coach Matt Maguire said. “After their goal we played three men in back, giving us san extra midfielder to win balls we couldn’t before. We just couldn’t find the back of the net. “The ball on the goal line, a couple of near-post chances on corner kicks….we had opportunities, and so did they.
“The seedings were right; we were the six and seven teams, and were equal.”
Waterville had a 17-11 shot advantage overall, including a 5-2 edge in overtime. Both teams took four corner kicks. Steacy made 12 saves while Scoones stopped seven shots.
Cincinnatus has outscored its three post-season opponents 10-1, while Poland, the eighthranked Class D team in the state, has a 14-0 scoring advantage in its three tournament contests.
“I’ve seen Poland play about six times in the past year; what do you want to know?” Radziwon said with a slight smile. “Cincinnatus has lost to Poland four times in the last five years; it’s about time we got revenge.”
The Tornadoes have won four of the last five sectional Class D championships (2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016). They beat the Red Lions in all four years — 5-3 for the championship in 2012, 3-0 in the 2013 semifinals, 5-1 in the 2014 quarterfinals and 2-0 in overtime in last year’s semis. The two teams didn’t meet in the postseason in 2015, when Copenhagen beat Cincy 5-0 for the championship.