November 26, 2021

Cortland rallies for OT victory

Purple Tigers reach semis

Jamie Brown/contributing photographer

Tori Cruz (left) hoists Jenicah Brown in the air in celebration after connecting on a goal that tied the game at 2-2 with 4:56 left in the second 10-minute overtime of Cortland’s 3-2 come-from-behind victory over Watertown on Moiseichik Field Thursday in the Section 3 Class A quarterfinals.

The Cortland High girls’ varsity soccer team made its final game on Moiseichik Field a memorable one Thursday night.

The Purple Tigers scored three goals in the second 10-minute overtime period to overcome a 2-0 deficit and advance to the Section 3 Class A semifinal round with a 3-2 win over Watertown.

Fourth seeded Cortland (12-5 overall) will meet top seed Central Square (15- 1-1) Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in the the first of two semifinal games at Chittenango High School. The Red Hawks were 4-0 winners over eighth seed Christian Brothers Academy (9-8-1) Thursday.

Grace Call scored the game-winner with a clean drive into the the net as she took a pass from Soleil Gutchess with 24 seconds remaining in the second of the two mandatory 10-minute overtime periods.

“In all my life, I’ve never witnessed a come-from-behind win like the one we had tonight,” Cortland coach Ilona Ryon said. “We dug deeper than we ever have before and truly believed in ourselves and each other. That trust and belief is what we need to see as we continue to play in the postseason.”

Cortland came out hard and fast for the first 15 minutes of the game. The Purple Tigers had several shots and put a lot of pressure on the defenders from Watertown (13-4). Tori Cruz served on corner kick high in the box, but the ball was headed off the right post. Watertown started to counterattack with some long balls down the field, but the Cortland defenders were up to the task, including a senior making her season debut for the Purple Tigers. Jenicah Brown was playing her first game coming back from ACL surgery and was successful through the game.

It was Brown’s goal with 5:04 left in the second overtime period that tied the score at 2-2.
“Jenicah teamed up with Maia Quick in the center back position and between those two speedsters, they quickly shut down Watertown’s long ball attacks,” Ryon said. “We had some really good early opportunities, but shots went right to the keeper or wide of the goal frame.

“Kayla Swartwood played hard and aggressive on the outside left back position. She won some important head balls and wasn’t afraid to sacrifice her body for the team. Marissa Gilmore had some clutch saves throughout the game, one of them being on a corner kick. Marissa was able to knock away a ball headed for the goal to keep the game scoreless. Marissa also had a few sliding saves as she came off her line to get to the ball first. Liz Decker had some time up top to help our offense. Liz is always willing to work hard and run through the ball. Kaitlyn Pratt had a nice defensive position on their center midfielder Tatum Overton as Tatum tried her back heel flick to no success due to Kaitlyn’s awareness of the ball and well timed tackle.” With game scoreless after 40 minutes, play moved into the second half. Again neither team put the ball in the net.

Katie Vartanian/contributing photographer

Tori Cruz (8) pushes the ball up field for Cortland on Thursday during the Purple Tigers’ Section 3 Class A quarter final game on Moiseichik Field. Cruz had two assists in Cortland’s 3-2 come-from-behind win in double overtime.

“During the second half, we had several great crosses that went untouched across the goalmouth or Watertown defenders easily got to the ball first. We couldn’t seem to get a clean shot off when we were in the center of the eld with the ball either. Many of our shots were low and the goalie positioned herself for some easy saves. Grace Call played in several different positions tonight to help the team. She played outside right mid to sprint down some through balls and get a nice cross off. She helped out in the back line as well in both outside and center back positions. It’s wonderful to have a player as versatile as Grace and who is always willing to do what’s best for the team. She always listens with an open mind and that is why she was able to find so much success in her new position. Maia Quick played with excellent composure tonight, settling the ball numerous times and finding a smooth pass to her teammates’ feet. Caleigh Chase had an outstanding game in the outside right back position tonight. She stepped up and joined the attack with some great serves into the box. She fought hard with her marks and made quick recovery runs when needed. Kaitlyn Pratt and Lillian Quick ran our center midfield and worked end to end the entire 100 minutes of play. Lillian Quick was our strength in the air for the 50/50 balls and nicely disrupted play from Watertown. Kaitlyn Pratt had numerous strong tackles and was able to send some through and over the top balls to our outside mids, like Amaya Willis who were making their runs. Ella Quick not only ran forward to get some shots on goal, but was incredible at getting back on defense, beating Watertown’s forward or middie to the ball, and then turning the ball back up the field. Ella was also taken down in the box as she was about to strike a ball on frame, but no foul was called.”

With regulation time winding down, both teams had their chances. Watertown had one good opportunity when one of their players cleared Cortland’s back line, but she sent her shot above the crossbar as Gilmore came charging at her.

Watertown (13-4) finally got on the board with 1:31 into the first 10-minute overtime period. Overton ran onto a through ball and put a shot in the bot- tom right corner of the goal.

The Cyclones went ahead 2-0 1:04 into the second overtime period as Jenna Christopher connected on a low shot after getting around the Purple Tigers’ defense.

At that point, Ryon had no choice but to make a change with nine minutes remaining in her team’s season.

“We told the girls at halftime that we may have to change formations if we were down and they had to trust that it was going to work,” Ryon explained. “When we were down two goals with nine minutes left to play, we had nothing to lose so we changed our formation and sent Jenicah to the front line and from there we created the greatest comeback I’ve ever seen.”

Cruz was at the center of the comeback with two assists. The first came with 5:16 remaining as she got the ball to Gutchess for a solid strike into the bottom left corner of the goal. Just 20 seconds later, Cruz set up Brown with a shot into the bottom right corner of the goal and the game was tied.

With momentum on its side, Cortland completed the comeback with Call’s goal.

“Both Ryan (Bilodeau) and I are extremely proud of the way the girls never gave up and fought for every inch of the field together,” Ryon said. Bilodeau is Ryon’s assistant coach on the sidelines.

Cortland had a 23-10 advantage in shots while Watertown enjoyed a 4-3 edge in corner kicks. Alana Mastin had 14 saves in the Watertown goal. Gilmore finished with six saves in the Cortland goal.

Cortland is one step closer to the Section 3 Class A Championship game. All that stands in the Purple Tigers’ way to SUNY Cortland for that title game is Central Square.