CORTLAND — It probably was not how they drew it up, but the Unatego Spartans are moving on to the NYSPHSAA Class C girls soccer state final.
Unatego upended Section I Haldane in a game that needed penalty kicks after 110 minutes of scoreless action.
With penalty kicks tied 1-1 after four shooters each, Spartans goalie Meghan Perry bodied away a shot from Blue Devils goalie Abigail Platt, who was Haldane’s final shooter.
That set the stage for Morgan Perry, Unatego’s fifth shooter, to clinch the win with a goal and the junior did just that with a shot to the right side of the net that got past the outstretched arms of Platt.
“It was very nerve-wracking but I just realized that I was chosen to do something and that I could do it,” Perry said. “If not, I knew my teammates had my back.”
Meghan stopped four of the five Blue Devils penalty kicks and Kylie Mussaw scored the first goal for the Spartans, allowing Morgan the chance to win the game.
“We finished what we needed to finish and Meghan did her job and what she needed to do back there,” Unatego coach Sue Herodes said. “I have all the confidence in the world in Meghan. She is a fabulous goalkeeper.”
While the Spartans did not score until penalty kicks, they had a handful of high-end chances that could have ended the match much sooner.
Unatego’s best bid came with 13:11 left in regulation on a penalty kick after Paige McCoy was taken down in the box. Dana Stepp took the kick but missed to the right of the goal.
Stepp had at least three more chances around the net, including a shot in the 8th minute that stung the left post.
In the overtime periods, McCoy sent a shot wide after Platt allowed a rebound in the box and Morgan Perry also hit the left post after barreling into the box with speed.
The Spartans did not let the near misses bother them as they seemed to get stronger as the game progressed.
“We just realized that if we worked together, nobody could beat us,” Morgan Perry said.
Haldane played well defensively throughout the game and forced Unatego to bring the ball upfield. Almost every time the Spartans attempted a through ball, the Blue Devils were there to negate the chance, and Unatego had a hard time generating offense because of it.
“We are definitely a more defensive-minded team so not being able to get our normal breakaways was difficult for us to get the ball in the net,“ Herodes said. “When the kids are so internally inclined to make sure teams don’t score, sometimes we’re not supporting offensively as well as we should be.”
Defensively the Spartans were stout, surrendering 15 shots in total. They only allowed Haldane one real good opportunity but Meghan Perry turned the bid aside as one of her 13 saves.
“We are very defensively minded,” Herodes said. “They are scrappy, they are smart, and they are very focused, including Meghan in the back…We play very well defensively.”
Unatego held the advantage in shots, 18-15, but the Blue Devils led in corners, 5-2.
Platt finished with 15 saves in goal for Haldane, which closed the season at 11-6-3.
The Spartans (19-0-1) will play the winner of Section II Stillwater and Section V Marion in the final at 10 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 17, at SUNY Cortland.
“We played our game and I think we controlled the ball very well today,” Herodes said. “We’re a family. We’re not a team we’re a family. When one person can’t get it done someone else can and today is an absolute prime example of that.”
Unatego 0, Haldane 0
NYSHPHSAA Class C girls soccer semifinal
Unatego advances in penalty kicks, 2-1
Haldane 0 0 0 0 0 0 – 0
Unatego 0 0 0 0 0 0 – 0
Haldane: Allie Ferreira PK.
Unatego: Morgan Perry PK, Kylie Mussaw PK.
Shots-corners: H 15-5, U 18-2.
Goalies: Abigail Platt (H) 13; Meghan Perry (U) 13.