MORRIS _ To watch the first half of a matchup between Tri-Valley League girls soccer powers was to be certain Morris would leave its home field with the unbeaten record it took into Monday.
The Mustangs outshot defending Tri-Valley League and Section Four Class D champion Milford, 10-2, in the opening half and generally dominated play but had nothing to show for it on this pleasant afternoon.
Then a pair of eighth-graders scored on breakaways in the second half to give the Wildcats a 2-0 victory that clinched their second straight T-V East Division title and set up a rematch between these teams in the league final in two weekends.
"Morris is a very, very good soccer team and they applied a whole lot of pressure on us in the first half," said Milford coach Chris Saggese, whose team improved to 9-1-1 overall and in league play, and closed out second-place Schenevus, which is 7-3-2 in league. "We made a couple of tactical and positional changes (at halftime) and they worked out OK."
The pint-sized Addy Lawson won a footrace with Mustangs keeper Katie Humphris and scored with 24 minutes, 41 seconds to play. Emilie Mertz made it a two-goal spread with 5:26 left on an impressive individual effort that started with her stealing the ball from Monique Rutte near midfield and dribbling the ball about 40 yards before scoring into the right side of the net.
"Addy and Emilie are eighth-graders who are poised in front of the net," Saggese said. "They're confident young ladies who just put them away, but Morris is a very good squad. That first half, I was very impressed with them."
Talk about a first half of what-ifs and could've-beens, Morris had plenty.
The Mustangs (10-1-2, 9-1-2), who clinched their second straight West Division title on Friday, forced Milford goalie Krista Ransier to make seven saves in the opening 40 minutes. They also hit a crossbar and had a goal disallowed.
"We had a lot of opportunities, but it's soccer and if you don't get them in the net, they don't count," said Morris coach Rhoda Flint, whose team lost, 1-0, to Milford in last year's Tri-Valley League final.
Morris' pressure started 6:20 into play when Emily Leboffe drove a 17-yard shot that hit the bottom of the crossbar and came back out. About four minutes later, Amanda Flint took a hard shot on the right side from about 22 yards. Ransier ran three steps to her right and batted the ball away. Charlotte Rozanski, stationed at the left post, then kicked the rebound into the goal but was ruled offsides.
With 18:15 left in the half, a Morris player took a long shot that Ransier dropped about 10 yards from the goal. The ball came out to Haley Wist, who shot just high.
Finally, with 30 seconds left in the half Leboffe sent a pass from the near the right sideline to Flint on the right side of the box. Flint's shot went wide of the far post.
But the Mustangs couldn't sustain their pressure in the second half.
"They came out in the second half and controlled the field and if you don't control the field, you're not going to have the ball and make runs," Flint said. "We didn't come out after halftime strong and we have to make sure we do that (in the future)."
Milford's first goal started with Avalon Ward winning a ball near the right sideline about 10 yards past midfield. Ward chipped a long ball over Morris' defenders. Lawson timed her run perfectly. The only drama was whether Humphris would beat Lawson to the bouncing ball about 15 yards from the goal on the right side. Lawson went feet first and hit a low shot under Humphris to make it 1-0.
"I thought I was going to be able to beat her because she came out late," Lawson said of Humphris, who finished with four saves. "I thought I had a chance, but I had to slide."
Mertz's goal sealed it for the Wildcats.
Rutte had possession on the left side and used her body to shield Mertz, but the speedy Mertz poked the ball free before running around Rutte to gain possession. Mertz had nothing but green grass in front of her. She waited for Humphris to commit before lining a low shot into the right side.
"It was very big because they were unbeaten," Lawson said of the victory.
Added coach Flint: "This is the most my defense has been pressured this year, but I'd rather lose today and beat them in the (league) championship. I told the girls, 'Let's make adjustments and get them in the league championship game.'"
Milford 2, Morris 0
Milford 0 2 _ 2
Morris 0 0 _ 0
Milford (9-1-1, 9-1-1): Addy Lawson 1-0, Avalon Ward 0-1, Emilie Mertz 1-0.
Morris (10-1-2, 9-1-2): None.
Shots-corner kicks: Mil 6-3; Mor 12-1.
Goalies: Krista Ransier (Mil) 8; Katie Humphris (Mor) 4.
Rob Centorani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-432-1000, ext. 209.