By Rob Centorani Staff Writer
The Daily Star
---- — VESTAL — One major hurdle was cleared Tuesday night and the potential for three more barriers await as Oneonta High chases that elusive first state title in girls soccer.
Facing a talented Bronxville squad that was every bit their match on a crisp but wind-free fall evening, the Yellowjackets got a goal from Taylor Hitchcock on a restart with 27 minutes, 54 seconds left in the first half to lift OHS to a 1-0 victory in a Class B state first-round game at Dick Hoover Stadium.
“Beating Bronxville any year is an accomplishment,” said senior midfielder Mariah Ruff, who assisted Hitchcock’s goal. “They’re a really great team. I feel like every year they come back even stronger. It’s crazy. Hopefully, it keeps going.”
This marked the third straight year Section Four champion Oneonta and Section One’s Bronxville have met in the state playoffs. The Broncos won two years ago, 1-0. Last year, OHS advanced in a penalty-kick shootout after the teams played to a 1-1 tie.
Next for the Yellowjackets (17-2-1) is another familiar squad, three-time reigning Section Nine champion Spackenkill (17-1-1). OHS defeated Spackenkill, 4-1, two years ago in a first-round state playoff game. The state quarterfinal will be played Saturday at Middletown High at a time to be announced.
“We were exhausted,” OHS coach Jerry Mackey said. “We have girls playing ridiculous amounts of minutes, but they have such depth to their heart and character. They represent the community of Oneonta and the district so well. It’s a great place to be and I’m happy to be a part of it.”
The final numbers of eight shots for Bronxville to seven for Oneonta, with the Yellowjackets holding a 2-1 edge in corner kicks, accurately depict the back-and-forth nature of this one.
Oneonta’s goal came after Abby Picinich was tripped on the left side of the field. It gave the Yellowjackets a free kick from the left wing, about 8 yards from the end line.
“We have several girls who take those kicks, but Mar has a little more bend to her ball,” Mackey said. “She has a little bit more of a bending chip, so I thought that was our best option.”
That’s exactly the ball Ruff played to the far post.
“I tried to just use it as a cross,” said Ruff, who assisted both of Oneonta’s goals in a 2-0 victory over Seton Catholic Central in the Section Four final Friday. Ruff also had the assist on the Taryn More’s goal against Bronxville last season.
Here’s how Hitchcock described the rest.
“The goalie (Charley Warble) went to play the ball and missed it. Thankfully, I was right there and just ran through the ball like Mr. Mackey tells us and it went in. It was awesome.”
Each side had one solid chance during the remainder of the half. With 16:10 left in the half, Picinich received a pass from Brieanna Baker at the top of the box, turned and sent a high shot, but Warble made a leaping save with two hands.
About two minutes later, Bronxville’s Caroline Cory received a crossing pass in the box, but her shot went wide of the right post.
The scariest minutes for OHS came at the outset of the second half. The Broncos (15-4-1) pressured repeatedly and the ball rarely left the Yellowjackets’ side of the field. For about 10 minutes, it looked like a replay of last season’s state title game, a 3-1 overtime loss to Greece Odyssey in which OHS was thoroughly outplayed after halftime.
“I think the first few minutes (of the second half), we played terribly and I told the girls that on the field,” Ruff said. “I said we’re playing terrible and we need to push up or they’re going to score.”
The Broncos’ best chance early in the second half came six minutes in. A Bronxville player in traffic got her head on a throw-in, but OHS goalie Maddie Grau was there to save it at the near post.
“I started yelling, ‘We have to match their intensity,’ “ Mackey said of his team’s slow start after halftime. “They’re winning every 50-50, they’re shooting gaps and that’s because they’re not worried about the result if they don’t get it; they’re trying to get it.
“Meg Burns, Alicia Arcidiacano and Kendall Gillette played great defensively,” he continued. “I felt like we earned it. I felt like we played good soccer.”
Senior sweeper Burns seemed to be in perfect position all night, hitting long clearing passes to thwart Bronxville runs.
“The one thing Mackey stresses is push them to the outside or to their left foot,” Burns said. “He wants us to play the odds and lower the amount of shots that get to the middle with their right foot.”
Grau, who finished with six saves, made her best stop with 17 1/2 minutes left. Bronxville’s Mason Warble shot from the right side of the box and Grau tipped it forward before Oneonta’s defense cleared it.
Thereafter, the Yellowjackets had their best chances on a pair of breakaways by the speedy Picinich. Both times Picinich came in from the left side, but Charley Warble (five saves) made sliding deflections on those runs, with 12:30 and 11:20 left.
Much has changed for the Yellowjackets in the past 3 1/2 weeks. Since losing back-to-back games to Section Three powers Cicero-North Syracuse and Liverpool in mid-October, during which Baker and Madison Miller suffered injuries that kept them out for three and four games, respectively, OHS has won its third straight Southern Tier Athletic Conference and sectional titles. Now, the Yellowjackets have advanced to the state quarterfinals for third straight year.
“When we walked off that field in Liverpool, we’ve got BB down, we have Madison down, we have three girls left on the bench, we don’t know what’s going to happen, but we never give in to excuses,” Mackey said. “We just play.”
Added Hitchcock: “It feels awesome. I think we’ll go far and make it to the final four again. We just have to play our game. Our team is good enough to go all the way again and win it.”
Oneonta 1, Bronxville 0
CLASS B STATE FIRST ROUND
at Dick Hoover Stadium, Vestal
Number preceding team indicates section
Bronxville 0 0 - 0
Oneonta 1 0 - 1
1-Bronxville (15-4-1): None.
4-Oneonta (17-2-1): Taylor Hitchcock 1-0, Mariah Ruff 0-1.
Shots-corner kicks: B 8-1; O 7-2.
Goalies: Charley Warble (B) 5; Maddie Grau (O) 6.
Rob Centorani can be reached at email@example.com or 607-432-1000, ext. 209.