The Oneonta High girls soccer team was up to the challenge of facing an undefeated team in the Southern Tier Athletic Conference championship game Friday.
Nobody got higher than Mariah Ruff and Maddie Grau, however, and that made all the difference in the Yellowjackets’ 1-0 victory over Elmira at Elmira Free Academy.
Ruff’s leaping body blow gave OHS the lead a little more than eight minutes into the match and Grau got up for an overhead save in the final seconds to secure the Jackets’ third straight STAC crown and fourth in program history.
“From start to finish, it was really exciting,” said OHS coach Jerry Mackey, whose team played its fourth state-ranked opponent in seven days. “To think back at what the girls have done the last seven days and to win a third STAC championship in a row? It’s such a difficult league to win in general. We understand we were shorthanded, but that’s just an excuse if you want it.”
Standouts Madison Miller and Brieanna Baker missed Oneonta’s second STAC playoff game after suffering injuries in non-league weekend losses to Class AA powers Cicero-North Syracuse and Liverpool. On Wednesday, STAC East Division champion OHS (13-2-1) battled past Class A Vestal, 3-2 in overtime, to advance to the title game at West Division winner Elmira — a 15-0 Class AA squad.
“Realistically, we had the better of play for the most part,” Mackey said. “They were 15-0 and this was the (Elmira) team that was going to get the first STAC title for them. But they didn’t really settle in and string together some of the passes I’d seen them do earlier this year.
“They got a couple of early chances down in our end the first three or four minutes, then we kind of settled in,” Mackey continued. “We were down in their end after two or three throw-ins in a row, and one of those got deflected out of bounds on end line.”
That Elmira miscue resulted in Oneonta’s only corner kick, and the Jackets capitalized after Taryn More’s serve cleared opposing goalie Taylor White (three saves).
“It went over the goalie toward the back post,” Mackey said. “There was a bunch of traffic in the box, but (Ruff) went up and got it. The ball went in off her shoulder. She was clearly higher than the defender. If anything, she overjumped.”
More got the assist on Ruff’s goal, which came with 7:57 gone in the title match. Mackey said the two fueled Oneonta’s offensive attacks throughout, most of which were created by throw-ins from Ruff.
“Anytime the ball went out of bounds, they were aware of (Ruff’s) long throw-ins,” Mackey said. “Most of the year, kicking the ball out of bounds isn’t a big deal. We only had one corner kick, but we had 25 throws from 20 yards in. We put a lot of pressure on them.”
Mackey also highlighted the defensive efforts of Alicia Arcidiacono and Kendall Gillette, who helped limit the touches of Elmira’s top forwards, Tianna Hatch-Dailey and Sierra Barr.
“They played great on them and Meg Burns played great as far as clearing us out of trouble,” Mackey said. “Grau made some big saves in traffic, too, and they certainly came at a great time.”
Grau saved her best for last, capping a seven-save shutout with an overhead grab on Elmira’s seventh and final corner kick.
“She went up and made a great save,” Mackey said. “There were 20 players in the box, fans from both sides were going crazy, everyone was standing up and you could see the clock ticking down. I’m so proud of our girls. We have a core group of nine that have played 180 straight minutes now against Vestal and Elmira with no subs. We were under pressure, playing a defensive position and exhausted. Now we have a week to rest and it couldn’t have come at a better time.”
OHS earned a first-round bye in the upcoming Section Four Class B Tournament and is off until next Friday, when the Jackets will host seventh-seeded Waverly (11-2-2) of the Interscholastic Athletic Conference in a 3:30 p.m. quarterfinal.
Mackey said Miller (right ankle) and Baker (shoulder) won’t be rushed back into action and likely will miss Friday’s quarterfinal.
“Two weeks from tonight is the sectional final, so we’re not going to put them at risk if these girls are playing at this level,” he said. “We’re not going to take chances. It’s better to have them back for sectional final than kind of, sort of have them back for the other games.”
Oneonta 1, Elmira 0
at Elmira Free Academy
Elmira 0 0 - 0
Oneonta 1 0 - 1
Elmira (15-1): None.
Oneonta (13-2-1): Mariah Ruff 1-0, Taryn More 0-1.
Shots-corner kicks: O 8-1; E 9-7.
Goalies: Maddie Grau (O) 7; Taylor White (E) 3.