NORWICH – Given a second chance, Unatego sophomore Morgan Perry did not miss.
With the game tied 1-1 and 4:12 left in regulation time, Perry curled a 36-yard direct kick into the upper left corner of the goal to give the second-seeded Spartans a 2-1 lead over top seed Groton and the Section 4 Class C girls’ goccer championship Monday evening at Norwich High School. It was a second try at that kick after Groton was whistled for encroachment on the first kick.
Unatego (16-2 overall) will advance to the New York State regional final Friday against Little Falls (18-2) at Herkimer County CC beginning at 7:30 p.m. Monday’s setback was the first of the season for the Indians, who finished with a 17-1 record.
“Morgan has had a few of those this year that she’s put in from a distance,” Unatego coach Sue Herodes. “They called encroachment on the first try and gave her another opportunity. I don’t think she was really focused on the first kick because she was a little excited. Morgan is a big force in our midfield. She ended up with a goal and an assist in the championship game, that’s pretty good for a defender.”
“On a direct kick, yes, it’s tough,” Groton coach Dick Brecht said. “We’ve played well all year. It was just a matter of time before our girls started to do what they do. Unatego put a lot of pressure on us in the midfield and that ended up being the difference.”
It was an end-to-end first 40 minutes as each team had six shots and a few attempts off the mark. Unatego took a 1-0 lead with 29:45 left in the first half when Dana Stepp headed a corner kick by Perry past Groton goalkeeper Emma DeMatteo. That could have given the Spartans a 2-0 lead as they just missed scoring 33 seconds into the game. Morgan Newman drilled a shot from outside the left wing, but DeMatteo deflected the ball just enough that it hit off the right post and rebounded away.
Groton’s first scoring attempt was a 38-yard direct kick by Sophia Bell that caromed off the crossbar with 26 minutes left in the half. Three minutes later, the Indians evened the score at 1-1. Lauren Reeves tracked down a long ball while squeezed between two Unatego defenders, won the battle and poked the ball off the right post and into the goal.
That goal seemed to energize the Indians. Maggie Ossit ripped a line drive at Spartan goalkeeper Meghan Perry, who made the save 30 seconds after Reeves’ goal. With 20 minutes left in the half, Ossit got a breakaway and shot from point-blank range. Meghan Perry made the save, but the ball bounced right back to Ossit who delivered a second attempt wide of the right post. Both teams put a shot over the crossbar in the final 90 seconds of the half and the game remained deadlocked.
The pace of play seemed slower in the second half. Groton’s best chance came off the foot of Brooke Brecht, who sailed a shot over the crossbar with 14:46 remaining.
Other than the direct kick score by Morgan Perry, Stepp had a nice attempt at the near right post with 27:50 left that DeMatteo stopped.
Each team had eight shots in the game. DeMatteo made five saves and the winners’ Meghan Perry had three saves. Groton took three corner kicks to Unatego’s two.
Unatego lost to Little Falls 5-1 on Sept. 29 and gets a second chance against the Monties on Friday.
“Our program has been pretty good,” Herodes said. “We have some great kids and they work hard. I don’t know if we do anything differently. These kids are young. I only have one senior starter and two seniors total on the team. We’ve gotten this far and we get to play Little Falls again.
We played them earlier in the season and it was an awful game and we were missing a couple of players. It’s nice to have another shot at them.”
For Groton, another young team with just two seniors, it was a tough ending, but still a bright future.
“The girls worked hard and played hard all season,” Coach Brecht said. “They work a lot in the off-season. I have two seniors (Ossit and Taylor Thompson) who are an integral part of what we do. They will be sorely missed, leadership-wise and in ability. They were good kids. I’m proud of all of them because of where we’ve come from from where we started.”