By Rob Centorani Staff Writer
The Daily Star
---- — For now we’ll call it a rubber match, but who’s to say the girls from Oneonta High and Bronxville won’t make this an annual encounter?
With the way the Yellowjackets (16-2-1) and Broncos (15-3-1) have dominated their sections recently, these soccer powers might be seeing a lot of each other in the years to come.
Two years ago, Bronxville sent OHS home with a 1-0 state quarterfinal victory at Yorktown High. Last year, the Yellowjackets ended the Broncos’ season with a 4-3 shootout victory after they played to a 1-all tie through regulation and four overtimes in a quarterfinal at Greene.
At 4:30 today at Vestal High, three-time reigning Section Four champion Oneonta and four-time defending Section One Bronxville will square off in a Class B state first-round game.
The winner will play Section Nine champion Spackenkill (17-1-1) on Saturday at Faller Field in Middletown in a state quarterfinal.
“I don’t know that it’s ever happened before,” Bronxville coach Don Cupertino said of teams meeting three straight years in the state playoffs.
The teams are similar in other respects.
Both were seeded second in their sectional tournaments.
Neither side has lost to a Class B squad this season – all of Bronxville’s losses came against Section One Class A schools and Oneonta’s setbacks came against Section Three Class AA powers Cicero-North Syracuse and Liverpool.
“I think during the season we’ve gotten better and we’ve played Cicero-North Syracuse and Liverpool so we’ve been challenged and seen better teams,” Oneonta’s Abby Picinich said after the Yellowjackets’ 2-0 Section Four Class B title-game victory over Seton Catholic Central on Friday at Norwich.
Both teams also get offensive production from a number of sources.
Cupertino said his Broncos rely on four to five players to carry the offensive load. Included in that mix is freshman Mason Warble, who scored both of her team’s goals in a 2-1 win over fifth-seeded Albertus Magnus in the Section One final Saturday.
Bronxville also speedy senior Lucy Kohlhoff back.
In fact, the Broncos graduated one starter from last year’s team, Claire MacMillen-Bell. They lost a senior during the season – defensive standout Meredith Donovan – to a knee injury.
“We have many more seniors than we did last year, but we also have a lot of younger players who contribute to the game,” Cupertino said.
What was sure to be a focal point to Oneonta’s preparation for Bronxville during Monday’s practice was defending the Broncos’ re-starts. Both of Bronxville’s goals against Oneonta the past two years have come on re-starts, including last season when Killian Donahue scored on a free kick from 30 yards with 24 minutes left in regulation to give the Broncos a 1-0 lead.
“We do spend a lot of time re-starts,” Cupertino said.
Added OHS coach Jerry Mackey: “It’s important (to limit re-starts), for sure. We stress it every year. The good thing is we don’t have to do anything differently. We pretty much try to stay away from (allowing re-starts).”
Last year, Madison Miller marked Kohlhoff and kept her in check.
Miller, who shared Daily Star Player of the Year honors with teammate Mariah Ruff in 2012, returned to the Yellowjackets lineup Friday and played forward. Miller missed four games with a right ankle injury.
Mackey said Miller probably doesn’t yet have the fitness to mark a player for 80 minutes, so the duty of slowing Kohlhoff will be distributed.
“Madison gave us good minutes the other night, but we’ll see,” Mackey said. “Nicole Harmer has been playing well the last 2 ½ to three weeks. They’ve been moving (Kohlhoff) around. We feel if she’s an outside mid, we can put some pressure on her to mark back on (Brieanna Baker’s) side. It’ll come down to our midfield and we feel our midfield has been on a pretty good run.”
As for Ruff, her throw-ins led to both Oneonta goals Friday against Seton, the first by Picinich and the second by Taylor Hitchcock.
“She’s a great player,” Cupertino said of Ruff. “I’m sure that’s going to be a big part of their game plan. It certainly is a weapon and we have to try to defend it. It is in the game plan.”
The Yellowjackets have eight players who have scored at least 12 points this season, led by junior Taryn More, who has an area-best 61 points on 18 goals and 25 assists. More scored the tying goal against Bronxville last season off an assist from Ruff.
Hitchcock has 15 goals and 10 assists, and Picinich is next with 11 goals and 11 assists.
Ruff has 12 goals and seven assists, Baker has contributed six goals and eight assists, and Miller has nine goals and one assist.
Oneonta’s other double-digit scorers are Harmer (seven goals and four assists) and Mallory Herrick (six goals).
“We feel we have individual kids who match up with their kids,” Mackey said. “Having beaten them once, we have enough girls returning that win, lose or draw, they won’t be overwhelmed by the moment. The young kids have come along and done a great job. They’re up to speed and we feel we’re putting a quality 11 on the field against a really good team.
“We feel it could go deep into overtime with someone still trying to make a play,” he continued. “We both have enough experience and firepower, and we understand each other now.”
Rob Centorani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-432-1000, ext. 209.