ONEONTA — Unatego averted disaster Tuesday, Oct. 29, in its 6-5 win over Lansing in the semifinal round of the Section IV Class C girls soccer tournament at Wright National Soccer Campus.
Up 4-0 after the first half and 6-0 less than 10 minutes into the second half, the Spartans were well on their way to a blowout win until the Bobcats scored five unanswered goals in about 15 minutes of action in the final frame.
“We just imploded,” Unatego coach Sue Herodes said. “We got worried about more of what was happening on the field than the game.”
The Spartans dominated the first 40 minutes, scoring four goals on nine shots, but lost momentum midway through the second half on a combination of desperate play from Lansing and some bad luck for Unatego.
“We started getting getting caught up in the moment, we started losing focus, is the best that I can describe it,” Herodes said.
The Bobcats scored their five goals on 13 second-half shots and became just the second team all season to tally more than one goal against the Spartans. Unatego allowed three goals to Schoharie on Oct. 5.
Lansing’s comeback began with a direct kick goal from Gwen Gisler just outside the 18 on a shot that went bar down in the 27th minute.
The Bobcats made it 6-2 on a penalty-kick conversion from Gisler after the Spartans were assessed a foul inside the penalty box.
Lauren Evanek cut Unatego’s lead in half less than four minutes later, finishing off a cross from Emma Heasley.
Lansing made it a 6-4 game on another penalty-kick goal from Gisler, as the Spartans got called for a hand-ball inside the penalty box and 25 seconds later, Carina Petrich brought it to a one-goal game as she scored on a collision between Spartan goalie Meghan Perry (14 saves) and sister Morgan Perry, who were racing to collect to a loose ball.
“We kind of lost our minds a little bit but ultimately we came out on top,” Herodes said.
Gisler finished the game with a hat trick as the Bobcats’ top offensive threat.
Unatego’s use of the through ball in the opening half led to its fast start as the Spartans scored all four of their goals by winning races to loose balls upfield and beating Lansing goalie Iris Boerman (11 saves).
“They were letting it happen,” Herodes said in regard to the success of the through ball. “It was good. We were trying to work on some different things offensively in the second half and in retrospect maybe I should have just let it go and let our first-half mentality continue.”
Dana Stepp scored first for Unatego on a ball from Paige McCoy at 32:59. About 10 minutes after Stepp opened the scoring, Morgan Perry pushed it to 2-0 on a shot that went to the lower left corner.
The Spartans followed with goals from Paige McCoy and another from Stepp to round out their impressive start.
Stepp added her third early in the second half to finish the match with four points. Stepp then moved to left-back late in the game to help shore up Unatego’s backfield.
“She can play any position,” Herodes said. “Her intensity definitely comes through when we kind of need it.”
Morgan Perry and Paige McCoy also registered multi-point efforts, each finishing with a goal and an assist.
Shealinn Stevens scored the Spartans sixth goal in the 33rd minute of the second half as Unatego finished with 20 shots and two corners. Lansing recorded 20 shots and five corners in the defeat.
Save for a bizarre 15 minute stretch toward the end of the game, the Spartans showed why they’re the No. 1 team in Section IV Class C.
“It’s frustrating when a game can be physical and kids get emotional,” Herodes said. “It’s definitely one of those sports where you wish you had a timeout so you could actually sit down and talk to the kids and say ‘hey, let’s get our heads back into the game and stop getting caught up in the moment and drama that happens in life.’
“We pulled it out, we still controlled it and I think we were definitely the better team, all of a sudden things just weren’t going our way,” Herodes added. “The lesson is how do we deal with that and we probably didn’t deal with that in the most positive manner, I don’t think. We could’ve dealt with it a lot better.”
Unatego (17-0-1) will play the winner of Wednesday’s semifinal between Elmira-Notre Dame and Groton. The final is set for 1:30 p.m. Saturday Nov. 2, in Norwich.
Unatego 6, Lansing 5
4-Lansing.... 0 5 - 5
1-Unatego.... 4 2 - 6
Lansing: Gwen Gisler 3-0, Lauren Evanek 1-0, Carina Petrich 1-0, Emma Heasley 0-1.
Unatego: Dana Stepp 3-1, Morgan Perry 1-1, Paige McCoy 1-1, Shealinn Stevens 1-0, Hali Lucia 0-1, Tatum Codington 0-1.
Shots-corners: L 20-5; U 20-2.
Goalies: Iris Boerman (L) 11; Meghan Perry (U) 14.