The Poland High School girls’ soccer team’s litany of post-season success continued on Saturday night at the SUNY Cortland Athletic Complex, with a familiar sting for Cincinnatus.
The top-seeded Tornadoes claimed their fifth Section 3 Class D championship in six years by beating the sixthseeded Red Lions 4-1 behind two goals by sophomore midfielder Victoria Rommel. In each of those five tournament runs, Poland (ranked fifth in the state in the latest Class poll) has met and eliminated Cincy somewhere along the way, including a 5-3 win in the 2012 title game and last year’s 2-0 semifinal win in overtime. Also included in the string are a 3-0 semifinal win in the 2013 semis and a 4-1 quarterfinal win in 2014.
The Red Lions didn’t face Poland in the 2015 sectionals, where they lost to Copenhagen 5-0 in the championship game.
Cincy, ranked 13th in the state this week, grabbed the early lead this time around as Poland defender Leah Basel, in attempting to clear a cross from the right side by Red Lions junior forward Delaney Rutan, put the ball into an open net past goalie Claire Lepper with just 1:56 elapsed, only the seventh goal allowed by the Tornadoes this season. That was one of the few bright spots for coach Mike Radziwon’s team, however. The top seed stepped up the pressure after falling behind, and had four good chances before Cincy senior defender Emily Price’s night ended 13:06 in after she was injured in a collision with a Poland player.
“After we lost Emily, we couldn’t recover,” said Radziwon, whose team ended the season with a 15-3-2 record. “Things were totally different; it was an even game up to that point. After it happened, we needed to pull some of our better offensive players back to compensate and lost some flow.”
It took Poland all of 1:28 to tie the score after Price was helped off, Rommel pouncing on a loose ball from close range on the right side out of a scramble and putting it past Cincy junior goalie Kara Steacy.
Though the Tornadoes continued to press — Steacy’s diving save to her left 16:45 before halftime a highlight — it wasn’t until 3:28 remained in the half that they got the game-winner, sophomore forward Carliza Roark scoring her 12th goal of the season from close range on the right side after a feed from sophomore forward Riley Wisheart.
Rommel pretty much settled the issue with her second goal of the game, an unassisted tally 2:33 into the second half. Wisheart closed out the scoring unassisted 5:25 later with her 34th goal this fall, a looping, turning volley from around 10 yards out on the right side. “I started feeling better 15 minutes in,” Poland coach Tom Basel said after his squad had improved to 18-2 on the season. “An own goal can happen to anyone; this one happened to my daughter. The girls settled the ball and started playing to feet, and we got that goal late in the first half so at halftime I felt better about our chances.
“I was surprised at the final margin. Cincinnatus has talented players and is well-coached. I respect that, but momentum can be a killer. We were able to tie the game and then go ahead before halftime. Plus, we’ve been here before a lot, and experience does matter.”
“My first goal was on a play where the ball ricocheted off the goalie twice and came to me while I was open,” said Rommel who now has scored six times this fall. “On the second one, a cross by Riley hit the goalie and came out; I had to hit it with my left foot, while I usually use my right.
“Once we scored our first goal and started playing our game, we knew we’d be all right.”
Poland had a 17-4 shot advantage in the game and took nine corner kicks while Cincy didn’t take any. Steacy made 10 saves; Poland got three saves from Lepper before she was replaced by sophomore Emily Schraeder, who didn’t have to make any saves over the final 2:33.
“Poland is a very good team,” Radziwon said. “They should have been ranked higher in the state all season. They were number one for most of last year, and this year’s team is every bit as good. We wanted to contain (junior forward) Keara Blumenstock and did a pretty good job there, but other people did damage.
“We had a great season; we lost seven seniors after last year but had a better record this season and went one game farther. Kyleigh Eaton (senior midfielder) was injured last basketball season and rehabbed as hard as anyone I’ve ever watched. She was among the top 10 league scorers this season. Emily played tough and Delaney was doubled all game, in a physical game and was our leading scorer this season. Players like that make you want to coach.” Team MVPs in the game were Rutan for Cincy and Wisheart for Poland, while Sportsmanship Awards went to the Red Lions’ Gabbi Gallow and the Tornadoes’ Leah Basel. Lepper won the Class D Tournament Golden Gloves Goalkeeper Award.
The Section 3 Class D all-star squad was announced prior to the game and includes Rutan from Cincinnatus and Poland’s Blumenstock (the Player of the Year), Wisheart and Lepper. Also honored were Waterville junior midfielder Molly Williams, Morrisville-Eaton senior midfielder Emily LeBlanc, senior forward Hailey Niles from Fabius- Pompey, Manlius-Pebble Hill senior midfielder Bianca Melendez Martineau, Bishop Ludden senior midfielder Emma Driscoll, junior defender Emma Timerman from LaFargeville, Sackets Harbor senior defender Hailey Martin and Madison junior defender Kayla Usborne.
Poland 4, Cincinnatus 1
Cincinnatus 1 0 — 1
Poland 2 2 — 4
Cincinnatus – (Poland own goal).
Poland – Victoria Rommel 2-0, Riley Wisheart 1-1, Carliza Roark 1-0.
Shots: Poland 17, Cincinnatus 4.
Corner Kicks: Poland 9, Cincinnatus 0.
Saves: Kara Steacy (C) 10, Claire Lepper (P) 3, Emily Schraeder (P) 0.