By Rob Centorani Staff Writer
The Daily Star
---- — There’s no substitute for it and Hornell senior Jocelyn Acor has plenty of it.
Acor’s “it factor” is speed. Her 100-meter time of around 12 seconds and the 26-second clocking in the 200 prove that she’s fast.
But Acor and her Red Raiders teammates are not going to a track meet at 5 p.m. Saturday at Cortland High. They’ll be playing in a Class B state semifinal in girls soccer. Their opponent is Oneonta High, a team steeped in tradition and one that is playing in a state semifinal for the second straight year.
When the teams take to the artificial turf Saturday, the Yellowjackets are sure to keep a close eye — more accurately, many eyes — on Acor, who leads the Red Raiders this season with 34 goals and 13 assists.
“They have a dynamic forward in the Acor girl,” Mackey said of the player who wears No. 16 on the Red Raiders’ roster. “It’s key that we keep our shape defensively, that we know where she is, that we’re marking her and that we’re marking with more than one.”
The winner of Saturday’s game will play for the state championship at 4 p.m. Sunday at Cortland State against Section Three’s Marcellus (19-1-1) or Section 11’s Center Moriches (13-5). Marcellus and Center Moriches will play the other Class B state semifinal at 5 p.m. Saturday at Cortland State.
OHS senior Mariah Ruff said the Yellowjackets can’t head to Cortland this weekend thinking about a state championship.
“Meg (Burns) and I told the girls we need to focus on the first game and not worry about the state championship,” Ruff said Wednesday after signing a national letter of intent to play Division I basketball at St. Bonaventure next season on a full scholarship. “We’re focused on winning one game.”
While Hornell is making its first appearance in the state semifinals, the Yellowjackets have been here before. That includes last season, when Section Five’s Greece Odyssey rallied to beat OHS, 3-1, in overtime in the Class B state final.
Oh, by the way, Hornell knocked off Greece Odyssey in the Section Five Class B final, 1-0, on a goal by Acor.
The Yellowjackets’ soccer program is 40 years old. Helen Sandford guided OHS the first 30 years, winning 15 sectional titles and advancing to the state finals twice, in 2000 and 2003. Mackey took over in 2004 and has steered OHS to four sectional titles, including the past three seasons, and state finals appearances in 2004 and 2012.
Breaking through for that first state title will start with slowing Acor, who also had Hornell’s goal in the Red Raiders’ 1-1 tie against Section Six’s Akron during last weekend’s state quarterfinals. Hornell advanced to the semis by winning a penalty-kick shootout. Mackey said his defensive alignment will call for one-and-a-half defenders to be assigned to Acor, a fourth-year varsity player.
In addition to Acor, Hornell has received 13 goals and 12 assists from senior Emily Wolf, eight goals from senior Allison Henby, and five goals and nine assists from sophomore Jocelyn Brittingham.
“It’s all about pushing players to the outside and now allowing any front cuts,” said senior sweeper Burns, who’s helped the Yellowjackets shut out their last six opponents.
Offensively, OHS has relied on numerous contributors.
Junior Taryn More has team highs of 19 goals and 25 assists, including a goal in the Yellowjackets’ 2-0 state quarterfinal victory over Spackenkill last Saturday.
Sophomore Taylor Hitchcock has scored in Oneonta’s last three games, but she suffered a severe left ankle injury in Oneonta’s win over Spackenkill. Mackey said Wednesday that Hitchcock has a chance of playing this weekend. She has 17 goals and 10 assists.
Sophomore Abby Picinich has 11 goals and 11 assists, and Ruff has contributed 12 goals and eight assists. Juniors Madison Miller (nine goals, one assist) and Brieanna Baker (six goals, eight assists) are also key offensive players.
“I think we’re playing our best soccer right now,” said Ruff, who shared Daily Star Player of the Year honors with Miller last season.
Should Oneonta advance to Sunday’s final, it might meet a Marcellus squad that knocked off previously unbeaten Schalmont, 2-0, in a state first-round game and then defeated Section Seven’s Saranac, 7-2, to advance the state semifinals.
Marcellus has outscored its opposition, 132-12, this season. The Mustangs are led by returning First Team all-state selection Brielle Filtch, who has 26 goals and 12 assists. Sophomores Madison Belvito and Jada Sargeant have 16 and 30 goals, respectively, for the Mustangs, who lost in state championships games in 2007 and 2010.
Casey Luongo and Claire Brady are the scoring leaders for Center Moriches, which beat Section Eight’s Wheatley, 2-1 in overtime, in the state-quarterfinal round.
The semifinalists are in the top four of the Class B state rankings, which are compiled by the New York State Sportswriters and Coaches Organization for Girls Sports with the help of media outlets and other sources. Oneonta is ranked first, followed by Marcellus, Center Moriches and Hornell.
Rob Centorani can be reached at email@example.com or 607-432-1000, ext. 209.