DRYDEN — Two seniors about 40 yards apart made an instant connection Saturday morning.
Senior sweeper Shelby Cleaveland found classmate Dani Nicosia early in the second half for a goal that lifted the Oneonta High girls soccer team to within one win of the program’s first state championship.
Nicosia scored with 33 minutes, 12 seconds left and the Yellowjackets repelled a late Cold Spring Harbor surge to win, 1-0, in a Class B state semifinal at Tompkins Cortland Community College.
“It just feels amazing,” Nicosia said. “We’ve been working toward this since we lost to Bronxville last year (in a Class B state quarterfinal). We have all the fire in the world.”
OHS went on to ... Section Five’s Greece Odyssey in Sunday’s final.
On a frigid but wind-free morning at TCCC, Oneonta had the better of play during a scoreless first half that included a disallowed goal by the Yellowjackets. With about 24 1/2 minutes left in the first half, Taryn More beat a defender at the left edge of the penalty box before centering a pass that Brieanna Baker finished from 6 yards. But an official ruled Baker broke too early and was offsides.
Oneonta avoided an offsides and converted on its next good chance.
The ball probably traveled about 150 yards in about 10 seconds, starting with a throw-in from the right side by junior Mariah Ruff. Her long throw made it into the box, but a Seahawks defender cleared it.
Jackets senior Jen Jelic then tracked down the ball about 10 yards short of midfield and sent a pass back to Cleaveland, who was positioned on the left side in Oneonta territory.
Cleaveland then showed off her powerful leg, driving a pass that traveled about 40 yards.
“The ball was rolling back to me and everyone is always like, play it to the corner when you get it, and (OHS coach Jerry) Mackey’s telling me to clear the ball when I get it,” Cleaveland said. “So I just kicked it up blindly and angled it to the middle.”