By Greg Klein Staff Writer
The Daily Star
---- — ONEONTA — Milford eighth-grader Grace Brennan found the right time for her first varsity goal.
Her coach, Chris Saggese, picked the perfect time to put her in, too.
Brennan scored seconds after checking into Saturday’s Tri-Valley League championship game at the Wright National Soccer Campus, leading Milford to a 1-0 victory over Morris.
“It was a dream come true — my first varsity goal,” said the 13-year-old Brennan, who found the net on a pass from Emilie Mertz with 2 minutes, 2 seconds left. “Emilie gave me a pretty pass and I just shot it. It’s amazing.”
Brennan subbed in for senior Kaley Chase on a corner-kick opportunity 10 seconds before the decisive goal. Morris nearly cleared Hannah Saggese’s corner kick, but Mertz ended up with the ball and dribbled back to the right corner. Mertz then crossed to an unmarked Brennan on the right side of the Mustangs’ goal.
“I got the ball at my feet, took a dribble and spotted Grace,” Mertz said. “I got it to her, she was one-on-one with the goalie, and she placed it in the perfect spot in the net.
“I couldn’t be any more proud of her,” Mertz continued. “Grace has been working with us since she was little. We breed soccer players. She has done a great job.”
Morris coach Rhoda Flint said her defense broke down on the play.
“She wasn’t marked up,” Flint said of Brennan. “It was just a defensive breakdown. It’s too bad because I thought we played them well defensively all game.”
Chris Saggese said putting Brennan on the field at that particular time was far from a stroke of genius on his part. He said the banged-up Chase, who missed much of the first half after one collision and was involved in another later in the game, simply needed a breather.
“It wasn’t anything about me,” Saggese said. “I have great girls. They work hard and they believe in each other.
“Gracie is a tremendous soccer player,” he continued. “In practice, she has that knack for finishing. In the game, (the opportunity) just happened to present itself. Emilie played a beautiful ball and Grace put the ball where it needed to go.”
Milford earned its fourth straight T-V title, but its first outright crossover crown since beating the Mustangs, 1-0, in 2010. The teams played to scoreless ties in each of the past two crossovers, and it seemed as if that trend would continue after 77 empty minutes Saturday.
Mertz had the best scoring opportunity in the first half, shooting off a pass from Keira Higgins with less than a minute left before the break. Morris goalie Kaylyn Oliver made a running catch for one of her four saves, though.
Milford also pressured early in the second half, but the momentum shifted to Morris with time winding down. The Mustangs took four corner kicks during a five-minute stretch that included their only shot on goal, but Wildcats goalie Ruykiye Henderson made a chest-high save on Alexis Forgit’s attempt from the top of the box.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for the Morris team and the Morris girls,” Chris Saggese said. “They have those three seniors — Alexis Forgit, Haley Wist and McKenna Hungerford — who are going to be playing at the next level. We knew they would give us a battle.”
Both teams will compete in the Section Four Class D Tournament this week. Morris (11-3-2) is the No. 4 seed and will host No. 13 Roxbury (7-7-1) of the Delaware League in a sectional opener at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Top-seeded Milford (15-1) has a first-round bye. The Wildcats will host a Friday quarterfinal against ninth-seeded Davenport (10-3-3) or No. 8 Windham (8-3). Davenport, which tied South Kortright in the Delaware League title game Saturday, visits Upper Delaware Division rival Windham at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in the first round.
Milford 1, Morris 0
at the Wright National Soccer Campus
Milford 0 1 - 1
Morris 0 0 - 0
Milford (15-1): Grace Brennan 1-0, Emilie Mertz 0-1.
Morris: (11-3-2): None.
Shots-corner kicks: Mil 8-7; Mor 1-4.
Goalies: Ruykiye Henderson (Mil) 1; Kaylyn Oliver (Mor) 4.