By Greg Klein
The Daily Star
---- — ONEONTA — Twenty extra minutes did nothing for the Morris and Milford girls soccer teams Saturday at the Wright National Soccer Campus.
"Defense — that was the story of this game," said Morris coach Rhoda Flint, whose team played Milford to a scoreless tie in the Tri-Valley League championship game for the second straight season. Unlike last season, though, this final featured a pair of 10-minute overtime periods.
"Today, both teams played well," Flint continued. "You don't mind a tie today because neither team deserved to lose."
Defending Section Four Class D champion Morris (12-1-3) had more late scoring chances — including one gasp-inducer with a little more than three minutes to go — but Milford goalie Rukiye Henderson and the rest of the Wildcats defense turned virtually everything away.
Milford sweeper Francesca Green had a lot to do with that, clearing a bunch of Morris advances to midfield and beyond throughout.
"She has a great knack for the ball," Milford coach Chris Saggese said. "She knows how to read passing lanes. She's just a very good soccer player."
Flint said she had prepped her team for the Wildcats senior.
"I told our team to keep the ball away from Green," she said. "But every time we got down there, she got it away from us and cleared it. In the second half, I think we did a better job keeping it away from her."
That's when eighth-grader Serena Chase stepped up for Milford. She stopped three Morris drives in the last 15 minutes of regulation, including two corner kicks with chest saves. The other came with 3:24 to go in regulation, clearing a rebound shot by Kelsea Webster that Henderson initially knocked down but failed to cover.
"Serena had a very good game," Saggese said of Chase, who briefly left the field after a hard fall but returned for the extra periods. "She had to mark Amanda Flint, who is a dangerous player, and she really stepped up today. She did a tremendous job."
Chase's older sister, Wildcats forward Kaley, missed the majority of the game after absorbing an elbow to the head late in the first half. Without her penetration dribbles and crosses from the left side, Milford’s offense struggled thereafter.
Defenders Lexi Bookout and Bridgette Colburn cleared nearly everything that came their way for Morris, which received 12 saves from goalie Katie Humphris.
"Bridgette played extremely well," Flint said. "I think our defense was great. We played about as well as we could play today. I can't ask for anything else from them."
Flint may ask for a little bit more in the Section Four Class D Tournament, though, as the Mustangs will enter Wednesday’s first round as the fourth seed.
"When you have success, then you are a good target for everybody else," said Flint, whose team will host No. 12 Edmeston (7-7-1) on Wednesday. "Everybody is going to give you their best game and try to knock you off."
Morris defeated Edmeston, 5-0 and 4-0, during the regular season. Its road back to the final should get more difficult as Delaware League co-champions Margaretville and Downsville could be the Mustangs’ next two opponents.
No. 6 Milford (11-2-3) hosts Stamford on Wednesday, with the winner playing at No. 3 Franklin on Friday. Saggese seemed confident his Wildcats, who dropped their season opener to Morris, 2-1, are capable of making a run in sectionals.
"We start five freshman and two eighth-graders," he said. "To lose all those girls to graduation, and then to lose three starters this year to season-ending injuries, it speaks volumes about the character and work ethic of these girls. Milford can really be proud of them."