December 1, 2021

Cincinnatus boys, McGraw girls come away winners under the lights

Showdown at SUNY Cortland

Katie Vartanian/contributing photographer

Cincinnatus mid elder Scott Schuyler (center) is denied a scoring chance by McGraw goalkeeper Nolan Knickerbocker as Eagles’ defender Michael Levitskiy (15) follows the play Saturday at SUNY Cortland. Cincinnatus won the game 3-1.

It’s always a little more than an ordinary soccer game when Cincinnatus and McGraw step on the field. There’s always the bragging rights, but it will often involve a step towards a Central Counties League title. Throw in excited parents and fans from both schools, playing on the SUNY Cortland turf field and turning on the lights, it becomes a great moment for each and every player who participates.

Saturday night each school had some reason to celebrate at the Stadium Complex as the Cincinnatus boys posted a 3-1 victory over McGraw while the Lady Eagles were 4-1 winners over the Lady Lions in a battle of undefeated teams in CCL play.

Cincinnatus boys 3, McGraw 1:

“There is a little more pressure when we play McGraw,” Cincinnatus coach Gordy Brown said. “We do have a mark on our back from not only being the defending league champion, but the defending sectional champion. We’ve been strong this year as have McGraw, DeRuyter and even Stockbridge Valley this year. It’s a good thing for the league, because more strong teams make for a better league. We all get better because of it.”

“It’s always more special playing here,” McGraw coach Jamey Crumb said of playing at SUNY Cortland. “This is why we have a game here, but we haven’t won here in a while.”

The pressure is there from the opening whistle as Cincinnatus seemed to control play, but McGraw was looking for the right opportunity to counterattack.

“We do feel a lot of pressure,” Cincinnatus midfielder Jacob Smith said. “It’s a lot harder, You really don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Katie Vartanian/contributing photographer

Cincinnatus’ Cason Stafford (7,right) elevates to redirect the ball with his foot while McGraw’s Dominik Cook (7, left) tries to kick the ball himself during Saturday night’s CCL soccer game at SUNY Cortland. Cincinnatus won this game 3-1.

Cincinnatus (6-0-1 league, 8-1-2 overall) got some looks early, but McGraw goalkeeper Nolan Knickerbocker (seven saves) was up to the task. With the Lions being denied, McGraw (5-2-1, 6-3- 1) got the first goal when Evan Ignatowski and Dominik Cook played a little give-and go. Ignatowski finished with a nice shot that just slid by Cincinnatus goalkeeper Kooper Vosburg with 27:17 left in he first half. The opportunities for the Eagles really did not come too often as Vosburg needed just two saves for the night.

“We just knew we had to comeback,”Smith said. Cincinnatus finally broke the ice with 7:12 to play in the first half. Smith delivering a nice crossing pass to Jordan Larrabee for the finish.

Less than two minutes later, the same duo struck again for the Lions. This time, Larrabee did the set-up and Smith finished with a low shot towards the left corner of the goal that kissed off the post and settled in the back of the net for a 2-0 lead.

McGraw came out strong in the second half. Caleb Knickerbocker had a shot from point blank range, but Vosburg made the save and covered up with 8:45 remaining. Four minutes later, Adam Nieves got an open look, but fired the ball over the crossbar.

From that point on, Cincinnatus took control. The Lions got a big insurance goal with 6:06 to go. There was a scramble in the box before Cason Stafford settled the ball and slid it to Nolan Rice for the finish. That goal made the score 3-1 and the Lions rode the wave to the win.

“We just ran out of gas a little McGraw’s Gracie McCall (left) tangles with Cincinnatus’ bit,” Crumb said. “We are good at converting on our chances, we just couldn’t get enough chances tonight. They are skilled in the middle. We got a lot of big body pressure on Cason in the middle during the first half. We just got tired in the second half and had to switch some people around. They took away what Jackson (Card) is good at and we couldn’t get much going on.”

Cincinnatus had a 12-5 shot advantage in the game with the Lions having an even bigger 13-2 margin in corner kicks.

Cincinnatus will host Stockbridge Valley in CCL action Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. McGraw will travel to Blessed Virgin Mary Tuesday for a 4:30 p.m. non- league game.

McGraw girls 4, Cincinnatus 1:

McGraw was up and seemed a step quicker right from the opening whistle as the CCL’s top two teams squared off.

“We talked about it all week,” McGraw coach Rachel Parker said. “It’s all about fine tuning things at this point of the season. It’s a big emotional rivalry game every year. It’s just about calming the nerves and play the game we’ve been practicing since August. The girls rose to the occasion and they’ve been playing together really well.”

“It was the first time on turf for some of these girls,” Cincinnatus coach Lisa Sustad said. “You try to prepare mentally when you play on turf because it it different. We didn’t get a chance to practice here before the game, We are a young team this year. We just couldn’t get it together.”

McGraw took a 1-0 lead with 25:23 left in the first half off a corner kick. The ball just bounced around a sea of players before the ball ended up in the net. Andrea May was credited with the goal and Bayley Meade had the assist.

The Eagles (6-0 league, 8-0-1 overall) kept the pressure on. There were shots over the crossbar, off the post and just wide of the mark. Gabriella Taylor even made a couple of nice saves for Cincinnatus (4-1, 4-2). Despite the pressure, it would still be just a 1-0 lead at halftime.

McGraw broke the game open in the second half as the teams played in and out of rain showers. Meade started things off with 33:35 left in the game. The junior midfielder was left open about 20 yards out on the left side. She lifted a perfect shot over Taylor and into the upper right corner of the goal for a 2-0 lead.

Katie Vartanian/contributing photographer

McGraw’s Gracie McCall (left) tangles with Cincinnatus’ Crystal Roberts during Saturday night’s CCL soccer game at SUNY Cortland. McGraw posted the 4-1 win.

With 22:54 to play, Megan Stull worked herself open by the left post. All the action was focused to her right as Taylor moved that direction. Emily Fish pushed the ball out of the crowd and Stull poked the ball into the open net.

The final Eagle goal came with 20:34 remaining. Meade sent a ball across the box and Ashley Neff scored on the deflection.

“It feels good,” Meade said. “We’ve been wanting this game and to win it feels amazing. We knew they were going to come out strong so we had to come out harder. We knew once we got the first goal we knew we still needed to play harder to get the win.”

Cincinnatus avoided the shutout with 2:11 left in the game. The Lions got a good push as Deslinn Rutan delivered the ball to Kyla Sustad who drove the ball into the lower left corner of the goal.

McGraw owned a 20-5 advantage in shots and a 3-2 edge in corner kicks. Taylor made 10 saves for the Lions. Greta Simmons had two saves for the Eagles.

“These girls aren’t use to losing,” Coach Sustad said. “We just need to lose with integrity. That’s what I’m looking for.”

McGraw will host Madison this afternoon at 4:30 p.m. in CCL action. Cincinnatus will head to LaFayette for a 4:30 p.m. non-league contest.