If there is such a thing as a turning point in a 16-1 season, it came Sept. 18 for the Milford girls soccer team.
The Wildcats jumped to 7-0 start that included a 2-1 win over defending Section Three Class C champion Cooperstown and 6-1 routs of Class D powers Hamilton and New Lebanon in The Daily Star Hall of Fame Cup.
Then came a trip to Edmeston, loser to Milford in the last three Tri-Valley League championship games.
"A lot of things had happened, and some I can't talk about," said Milford coach Lorin Campbell, whose team absorbed a 5-0 drubbing by the eventual Tri-Valley East Division champion Panthers. The two will play for the T-V crossover title at 1 p.m. Saturday at the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta.
"We were not mentally ready to play that game," Campbell continued. "Beating Cooperstown three days prior to that, emotionally, that was a big win for us. Sometimes, you have a tough time coming down from that. But I'm not making excuses. We didn't go there to play."
Edmeston sure did.
Kori Hamm scored once and had two assists for the Panthers (14-2-1, 11-0-1), which held a 2-0 halftime lead and wound up with goals from Ashley Harbison, Brittanie Becraft, Amanda Dockstader and Juli Vibbard.
"We definitely were not expecting 5-0," said Edmeston coach Melanie Mumbulo, whose team tied host Schenevus, 1-1, on Sept. 26 for its only non-win against a T-V foe this season. The Panthers suffered their losses during The Daily Star Hall of Fame Cup, falling, 1-0, to McGraw and Cincinnatus. The latter came two days before Edmeston hosted Milford for their regular-season meeting.
"We just came off two losses at the Hall of Fame and we just wanted to get back on track," Mumbulo said. "Every kid played well and that doesn't always happen. It was just one of those days that everything just clicked for us. Our passes were on target; if somebody was double-teamed, the pass went to the open person and gave us shot opportunities; we controlled the ball quite a bit ... Sometimes you just want to take that and put it in a box and have it every day."
Although Edmeston scored the most goals against Milford in one game this season, that the Panthers allowed none to the highest-scoring offense in the league is equally important.
"Defensively, I thought we played well, probably better than we had up to that point," said Mumbulo, whose team shut down reigning Daily Star Player of the Year Brenna Campbell (37 goals, 19 assists) and fellow senior standout Maria Arnot (34-16). Campbell, who is Lorin's daughter, has 117 goals and 75 assists as a varsity player, while Arnot has 120 and 55, respectively.
"We played them man-to-man," Mumbulo continued. "Obviously, we know who (Campbell and Arnot) are _ everybody does. We're definitely going to keep a close eye on them."
Both teams completed their regular seasons unbeaten. Milford won nine straight to finish 10-1 in league play and clinch the T-V West Division title for the fourth straight fall. Since its loss to Edmeston, Milford has outscored its opponents, 72-4.
Edmeston's victory over the Wildcats started a string of nine games without a loss for the Panthers, who won the T-V East Division crown for the fourth consecutive season.
Sophomore Hamm (21 goals, 13 assists) and senior Dockstader (12-4) are the go-to offensive players for Edmeston, which is likely to continue using a two-goalie set with Suellyn Tophoven and Susanna Johnson. Likewise, Milford probably will keep swapping Rachel Schultes and Chynna Pitlock in goal. Schultes started the season as Pitlock, last year's starter, was ineligible at the beginning of the year.
Neither coach revealed who would start in goal, perhaps an indication as to just how big this rivalry has become.
"If they're not motivated to beat (Edmeston)," Lorin Campbell said, "I don't know what else to do for them."
Notes: Edmeston is ranked fourth in the state in Class D. McGraw (14-1-1) is ranked eighth and Cincinnatus is unranked. ... Milford is the state's 11th-ranked Class D team, one spot ahead of Hamilton (15-2-1) and three in front of New Lebanon (10-3). ... Milford is seeded second for the Section Four Class D Tournament, one spot ahead of Edmeston. The Wildcats received a first-round bye. The Panthers will host Morris in a sectional opener at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Dean Russin can be reached at email@example.com or 607-432-1000, ext. 215.