CORTLAND – For the past two seasons, Unatego has been a "young" team. While that is unlikely to be the case in 2020, the Spartans' recent seasons have already produced plenty to be proud of - and the show isn't over yet.
Unatego extended its season as long as possible, but fell in the NYSPHSAA Class C final to Section II's Stillwater, 1-0, Sunday, Nov. 17, at SUNY Cortland.
The Warriors’ goal came from Paige Brinkso, one of six seniors on Warriors the team. Stillwater’s senior class played a big role in the win with captain Brooke Pickett pacing the offense and Kiersten Conroy occupying the goal.
With Unatego returning nine seniors next season, the Spartans could very well use their upcoming senior class just as the Warriors did this season.
“I still have a solid core,” Unatego coach Sue Herodes said. “The problem is I lose right up the middle. I lose Leah (Hamm), I lose Hali (Lucia) and Paige (McCoy) and those three players are significant in our play.”
Along with McCoy, Lucia and Hamm, the Spartans will lose Katie Ostrander, Georgia Liddle and McKenzie Rutherford to graduation.
“I hope to see them here again next year and they’re such a talented team,” McCoy said. “Losing six seniors is hard but I know they can be back here next year. I believe in them 100 percent.”
Leading scorer Dana Stepp, sisters Morgan Perry and Meghan Perry and defender Kaitlyn Fortin played essential roles in the Spartans’ run to the state title game and will be counted on heavily as seniors.
“We don’t want Stillwater to be state champions again, that’s probably going to be our main motivation and just doing it for each other,” Meghan Perry said. “That’ll be another part of our motivation next season as well.”
Before the 2019 season, Unatego had never made it to the state final four, making this past weekend’s experience all new to the Spartans. The same will not be true next season and Unatego will have a nucleus that now knows what it takes to get to mid-November.
“When you go to play these type of games you have to come ready,” Perry said about the learning curve of making it this far. “You only get on the field (before) for 30 minutes so you've just got to be ready to get it done, be energetic and just be excited for the game.”
Kylie Mussaw, Anabel Rommer and Alexa Lucia highlight the non-senior Spartans coming back in 2020.
“It’s very exciting to know that we have another opportunity to see what we can do,” Herodes said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better experience this year."
All year and particularly throughout the postseason, Unatego players mentioned how tight-knit the team was. With the bulk of the roster still intact, the Spartans’ camaraderie should be a strength next fall.
“It has a really big part in what we have accomplished and what we will accomplish in continuing years is our relationship with each other,” Perry said.