On the way to the team’s postgame meal in Cortland, N.Y., on Saturday night, there were plenty of smiles and happy faces on the Shoreham-Wading River High School girls soccer team’s bus.
There was good reason why.
The Wildcats’ magical season and quest for a state championship continued on Saturday afternoon as they toppled top-ranked Jamesville-Dewitt in the Class A semifinals, 1-0, at SUNY/Cortland.
“Oh my God, we’re so happy,” said senior back Sara Hobbes, a key figure in the Wildcats’ defensive effort. “Best feeling ever. Really unreal.”
It was the first time the fifth-ranked Wildcats reached the state final. They had never played in a state semifinal previously.
“Definitely very proud of everyone,” said Ashley Borriello, whose goal some two minutes after kickoff turned out to be the difference in a game that was played in 20-degree temperatures. “I think we deserve it. We worked really hard from the beginning of the season. So, now we’re putting it all out here in the states.”
Shoreham coach Adrian Gilmore has seen all that hard work come within a game of a state title.
“It’s just an amazing feeling,” she said. “It’s a great group of girls. They’ve worked so hard. A lot of them have been in the program since seventh grade … It started in August, and it has carried through.
“We played great soccer. We tried to be first to every ball. The girls worked together as a unit. They covered for each other. We played high intensity, two-touch soccer. We played very smart soccer.”
Class A GSoc Semifinals:
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Shoreham (16-2-2) will face third-ranked Spencerport (16-3-2) of Section V in the final in Cortland Sunday at 1:15 p.m. Spencerport advanced to the title match by recording a 4-2 shootout win over No. 4 Pearl River (16-2-5) after playing to a scoreless draw through overtime.
“They play very similar to us,” said Gilmore, who watched Spencerport in the first semifinal. “They play two-touch soccer and kick to feet. It will be a good matchup.”
Hobbes said she felt the team should “take the momentum from this game and bring it in tomorrow. We scored really early. We need to come out with the same pressure and same drive that we had today.”
In contrast to the Wildcats’ 2-1 overtime win over MacArthur in the Long Island championship game, they did not wait for any dramatic, 11th-hour goal to decide this confrontation. Instead, Shoreham struck early.
On the scoring sequence, Elizabeth Shields set up Gianna Cacciola for a shot. Cacciola found Borriello in the penalty area and the junior striker and turned around and drilled a shot into the corner.
“I knew that I could shoot far post,” Borriello said. “The goalie wouldn’t get there.”
The Wildcats realized they could not just play defense for the remaining 78 minutes. So, they continued to pressure as much as possible.
“That goal set it up for the rest of the game. We kept our intensity high,” Borriello said.
The Wildcats’ defense — team, back line and goalkeeper — also held Jamesville-Dewitt at bay as senior goalkeeper Alison Devall (four saves) wasn’t tested too often. “Much of that’s a credit to the defensive line,” Gilmore said.
The back four consisted of sweeper Maddy Joannou, stopper Brooke Langella and outside backs Alex Constant and Hobbes.
Gilmore singled out Hobbes for her stellar all-around play in the back. “Sara Hobbes in my eyes was relentless today and really kept us in the game,” the coach said. “She didn’t allow anything back. She would come out of nowhere, step up and serve the ball back down the line. She was smart, she played to feet, was good in the air when we needed it. She would step up and break up counterattacks. She just gave us time to get back and restructure our defense.”
For the first time this season, the Wildcats will play back-to-back games. In an optimum soccer situation, it is best to have at least one day of recovery.
Gilmore, however, felt her players would find a way to get through that.
“It’s the first time we’ve had to do that all year, but a lot of these girls play travel soccer or travel lacrosse with tournaments,” she said. “They’re very good at bouncing back. We talked about eating well tonight and getting a good rest, icing and stretching, make sure we take care of our bodies.”
Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River’s seniors, shown following their team’s victory in the Long Island Class A final, will get to play in a state final with their younger teammates. (Credit: Bob Liepa, file)