CORTLAND — Tears were shed, hugs were exchanged and a long bus ride home awaited.
Lewiston-Porter rode a methodical combination of aggressive defense and timely scoring all postseason and it was a ride all the way to the state semifinals. The Lancers simply met a player and a team that had the answer for both.
It still doesn’t mean that the loss — and how they lost — won’t sting for a couple days, but eventually they will realize the accomplishment in making it to states and the talent of their opponent. Section I’s Rye entered Saturday’s state semifinal having won 17 of 19 games via shutout and didn’t allow a goal until its 4-1 victory against Our Lady of Lourdes in the state quarterfinals one week ago.
And then there was the matter of stopping Charlotte Keenan. The freshman provided a hat trick, as the Garnets defeated the Lancers, 3-0, at Cortland High School, dashing the green-and-white’s hopes for Niagara County’s first girls soccer state championship.
“We knew that they were a very strong team and we (knew) what we were going into,” Lew-Port senior defender Halle Conrad said. “I think that they just had us one ups a little bit the whole game. We did stay in there the whole time. We didn’t give up. We weren’t just letting them get past us. We worked our butts off and left it all out there.”
Considering this was the biggest game of their careers for most of her players, Lew-Port head coach Emily Brook said the contest was a “good learning moment.” What led to the Lancers loss was how Keenan was able to break through, not once, but twice within the first 15 minutes of play.
With both goals coming on assists from Isabelle Harvey, Keenan’s first goal came just 5 minutes, 45 seconds into the contest, with a far side shot past Lancers junior goalkeeper Casey Fetzner (14 saves on 17 shots). Keenan’s second goal was added nine minutes on a break-away opportunity to give Rye a 2-0 lead.
Keenan would later add a goal off a penalty kick in the 45th minute to give the Garnets a 3-0 lead. But the two early goals, Brook said, came due to Rye’s success of breaking down the defense, even recording 11 corners.
“(Keenan’s) a very strong player and a super fast girl,” Brook said, “… We have a high line (on defense) and our high line got us. So even though we’re not to play high line, it’s just so natural for the girls to do it when they’re amped up. And (Rye) found the seams through. … They’re a very smart team. They’re a really talented team and they knew how to play that line, find the through balls, just (stayed) on sides.”
Playing from behind isn’t something Lew-Port had to do all that often this season. And the three goals Rye scored were the most the green-and-white gave up since a 4-0 regular season loss against Niagara Wheatfield on Sept. 26.
Not being able to score was unfamiliar territory for the Lancers, either. After outscoring their opponents 17-2 in the postseason, Lew-Port only managed three shots and three corners on Rye’s sophomore goalkeeper Tessa Labovitz. That’s because Rye’s forwards and center midfielders pressured all game long, which resulted in Lew-Port’s 99-point scoring duo of Elina Kunik and Emily Stefik being bottled up.
Kunik said the size mismatch was why the Garnets were able to contain their opportunities.
“They’re definitely bigger than us, so, I think that gave them an advantage towards our smaller team,” Kunik said. “So I think we still did good from the corners. We got touches on it. We just weren’t able to get it into the back of the net.”
With the win, Rye (20-2) will take on Section XI’s Shoreham-Wading River at noon Sunday at Cortland High School for the state championship.
Lew-Port finishes its season 16-5.