By Greg Klein Staff Writer
The Daily Star
---- — NORWICH — Poland left no doubt which team was the defending Class D girls soccer state champion Saturday at Norwich High.
Sophomore Mikayla Blumenstock scored three times in leading Section Three champion Poland to a 4-0 rout of Milford in a Class D state quarterfinal.
“We’re very young,” said Milford coach Chris Saggese, whose Section Four and Tri-Valley League champion Wildcats looked like it for the first time this season. “I think it is fair to say we had some jitters. And it was the first time on turf for most of our girls. I think getting used to the turf took some time.
“I give Poland all the credit in the world,” he continued. “They’re the defending Class D champions and I think they lost very little from that team. They scored four goals on the No. 2 team in the state (Copenhagen). They’re the best Class D girls soccer team I’ve ever seen, hands down.”
The Tornadoes (17-2) limited Milford (18-2) to three shots on goal and held a 2-0 lead less than 18 minutes into the quarterfinal.
Other than a few minutes at the beginning of the game, a return trip to the final four for Poland seemed inevitable.
After Blumenstock’s second goal, Saggese urged his team to keep their heads up and start competing.
“Let’s just start playing soccer,” he said. “You haven’t even started playing soccer yet.”
Indeed, Milford appeared to be stunned by the first goal, which came with 24 minutes, 53 seconds left in the opening half. Sophomore keeper Rukiye Henderson got a foot and then two hands on the ball, then watched it dribble between her legs and inch over the goal line. The ball rolled so slowly that neither team reacted when the referees ruled it had crossed the line.
“I think we have a lot of prolific scorers here,” Poland coach Tom Basel said. “They didn’t want to take credit for a goal that way.”
Blumenstock got credit for the goal as the last Poland player to touch the ball, but even she said she didn’t want it.
“Honestly, we didn’t (react) because that’s not how we wanted to get the first goal,” she said. “To a lot of the girls, the second goal was our first goal.”
Blumenstock had that one, too, scoring on a cross from Shiane Irwin a little more than two minutes later.
“I think basically I just do what I normally do, which is do cuts and they work,” she said. “My teammates do a great job getting the ball up to me. I always know where they are going to put it and the team was able to do that today.”
Saggese said he was happy with the way his defense played despite the score.
“I put my best defender, Serena Chase, on her, and Hannah (Saggese) had cover,” he said. “I thought they did well. We all knew that Blumenstock was a very talented forward.”
Tara Seigle made it 3-0 with 1:46 to go before halftime, stealing the ball ball in the penalty box to set herself up for a high shot past Henderson.
Blumenstock capped the scoring on a similar play 5:46 into the second half as she followed a steal with a low shot to the left corner for her 44th goal this season.
“It wasn’t easy,” Blumenstock said. “We’re both good teams. We just had the better game today. We’ve already experienced big crowds and big stadiums. We just feel more comfortable because this game isn’t as big a deal for us.”
Milford, which started three upperclassmen, took two of its three shots after halftime. Henderson finished with seven saves and performed well enough in the second half to keep the Wildcats’ deficit from growing any more.
Poland, which took 17 shots, advanced to a semifinal against Section Nine champion Eldred (10-7-1) at noon this Saturday at Tompkins Cortland Community College. The winner plays Chazy or Jasper-Troupsburg for the Class D state title at 11 a.m. Sunday in the Cortland area.
Milford will lose seven seniors to graduation, including forward Kaley Chase, but the core of the Wildcats’ starters will be back next season.
“The heart of our team is the 10th-grade class,” Saggese said. “I’m very, very proud of them.”
Poland 4, Milford 0
CLASS D STATE TOURNAMENT
Quarterfinal at Norwich High
Milford 0 0 - 0
Poland 3 1 - 4
4-Milford (18-2): None.
3-Poland (17-2): Mikayla Blumenstock 3-0, Shiane Irwin 0-1, Tara Seigle 1-0.
Shots-corner kicks: M 3-3; P 17-6.
Goalies: Rukiye Henderson (M) 7; Courtney Green (P) 1, Claire Lepper (P) 1.