By Rob Centorani Staff Writer
The Daily Star
---- — ONEONTA — Oneonta High’s girls advanced Friday, but coach Jerry Mackey cautioned that his squad’s season won’t last much longer if its play doesn’t improve.
Mariah Ruff shouldered in a corner kick from Taryn More in the first half and the speedy Abby Picinich scored on a breakaway in the second half of the Yellowjackets’ 2-0 victory over Waverly in a Section Four Class B soccer quarterfinal at Lloyd F. Baker Field.
But between the goals by Ruff and Picinich, second-seeded OHS struggled at times against the seventh-seeded Wolverines. Long pockets of play late in the first half and early in the second half favored a Waverly squad that leaned heavily on a pass-and-cut approach that gave the Yellowjackets problems.
“I’m happy we won and we’re certainly proud to beat a good team like Waverly, for sure,” said Mackey, whose team advanced to the Class B state final last season, “but realistically, that 20-25 minutes we put together at the end of the first half, our season is going to come an end fairly quickly if we can’t do more than that.”
The two-time defending Section Four Class B champion Yellowjackets (14-2-1) are still without two key starters — juniors Madison Miller and Brieanna Baker. Miller, who shared Daily Star Player of the Year honors with Ruff last season, is recovering from a right ankle injury she suffered during a 3-0 loss to Liverpool two weekends ago. Baker, who missed Oneonta’s last two games with a right shoulder injury, was in Plantation, Fla., on Friday for the Rising Stars All-American game for softball.
The fleet-footed Baker will be back for Tuesday’s sectional semifinal at home against Susquehanna Valley. Mackey said it’s possible Miller could return for the sectional final the following Friday or Saturday, if the Yellowjackets make it that far.
Still, OHS won its third straight Southern Tier Athletic Conference title without Miller and Baker, and seemed poised to win by a lopsided margin early on Friday.
Freshman Mallory Herrick had a golden chance 1 minute, 10 seconds into play. She got her foot on a Ruff throw-in in the middle of the box, but her 6-yard shot hit the top of the crossbar and bounced over.
About two minutes later, Picinich beat a defender on the right side of the box, setting up a 1-on-1 with keeper Allie Frutchey. But Picinich didn’t seem sure whether she wanted to pass or shoot and wound up sending a weak shot that Frutchey saved.
Oneonta’s third chance resulted in the first goal.
More set up for a corner kick on the left side. Ruff was positioned about 20 yards out at the far post when More made contact. Ruff timed her run perfectly on More’s high serve to the right side, hitting the ball inside the near post with her right shoulder 4:43 into play.
“It’s something I’ve practiced,” More said of her high corner. “Usually, we try to get Madison on those, but obviously Madison is out injured. So the next tallest player and highest jumper would be Mar, so she goes for them now.”
Added Ruff: “Taryn gave me a great ball. It could not have been any more perfect. I just ran through it like Mackey tells us to.”
It looked as if OHS might increase its lead when Picinich was tackled in the box 21 minutes before halftime, but instead of awarding a penalty kick, an official gave OHS a free kick from 16 yards on the right side. More popped it over the goal.
That’s about when things started to turn in Waverly’s direction.
The Wolverines (12-3-2) used their short-passing game and controlled possession for most of the remainder of the half. Starting with 8:20 left in the half, Waverly generated five corner kicks over a span of 4:20.
OHS didn’t allow a shot on any of them, but several of Emilie Myers’ corners looked promising in the air.
“We got one (goal) and I think we followed that up with some of the worst soccer we’ve played all season,” Mackey said. “I think some of it is a testament to the way Waverly played. Normally, a seventh seed is not 12-3, but they have a good program. We were lucky. They had that five-minute burst where it seemed like they had 75 corners.”
Though Waverly played well between the 18-yard boxes, it struggled to get good looks in the attacking third of the field.
Oneonta held a 14-1 advantage in shots and much of that was because the Wolverines couldn’t beat OHS defenders in the box. Sweeper Meg Burns combined with defenders Alicia Arcidiacono, Kendall Gillette and Ruff to thwart Waverly’s runs.
“When we got into the attacking third, or a little outside it, we kept looking for that one big ball and they’re too good defensively for us to do that on them,” said Waverly coach Brian Myers, whose team lost, 4-1, to OHS in a sectional semifinal last season. “They recovered and adjusted well when we looked for that extra pass.”
Neither offense did much in the first 15-20 minutes of the second half.
Then the Yellowjackets took control over the final minutes against a Waverly squad that didn’t substitute the entire game.
Frutchey made two dynamite saves in the second half.
The first came when Picinich blew by a defender on the left side before bringing the ball to the middle. She shot from 18 yards, but Frutchey made a sliding deflection and then covered the rebound with 23:10 left.
Ten minutes later, Taylor Hitchcock had possession deep in the box on the left side and sent a low shot toward the far post, but a diving Frutchey reached out with both hands and caught it.
Hitchcock also hit the left post on a 20-yard shot with 17:40 to go.
Picinich, an all-STAC sprinter in the spring in the 100 and 200 meters, then used her speed to create Oneonta’s second goal with 5:56 left. She received a long ball near midfield, booted it about 20 yards upfield and beat two Waverly defenders to it in the middle. She took one more touch before scoring inside in the right post from 20 yards.
“She can flip the field in a hurry and put pressure on the sweeper,” Mackey said of Picinich, a sophomore. “She just needs one ball, one touch and obviously that speed is a factor. Not having BB, (Picinich is) the one girl who can separate where it’s like, ‘whoa.’”
More had two goals and three assists when OHS beat fourth-seeded Susquehanna Valley, 8-0, on Sept. 19. The Sabers (13-2) advanced Friday with a 1-0 victory over Whitney Point.
“We didn’t play our best game today, but a lot of girls have been stepping up in those positions for Madison and Brie, so that’s good,” More said. “We’ll be getting Madison and BB back, and that’ll be big. We’ll just see how the rest of it goes. Hopefully, we can make it back to the state final.”
Oneonta 2, Waverly 0
SECTION FOUR CLASS B
Quarterfinal at Baker Field
Waverly 0 0 – 0
Oneonta 1 1 – 2
7-Waverly (12-3-2): None.
2-Oneonta (14-2-1): Mariah Ruff 1-0, Taryn More 0-1, Abby Picinich 1-0.
Shots-corner kicks: W 1-6; O 14-6.
Goalies: Allie Frutchey (W) 6; Maddie Grau (O) 0.
Rob Centorani can be reached at email@example.com or 607-432-1000, ext. 209.