Friday November 16, 2012

AUSTIN DANFORTH

Assistant Sports Editor

HOOSICK, N.Y. -- Given the chance, the trio of Hoosick Falls Central School veterans did not go out of their way to paint a glowing picture of their opponent in Saturday's Class C state semifinal. In a quick word-association game, the thought of Friends Academy drew:

"Revenge," from midfielder Allie Martin.

"Enemies," from defender Anna Restino.

"Not good," from defender Alice Hayden, who took a more polite tone.

It appears a year was not enough time to soften the memories of last year's white-knuckle state final, a scoreless stalemate that crowned the Panthers and Quakers a pair of uncomfortable co-champions.

The physical, 110-minute duel in Cortland last November featured tackles aplenty, post-game tears, shared hardware and even a concussion for Restino. It lends the rematch at Tompkins-Cortland Community College a shot of title-game venom and a sense of unfinished business.

A win would mean more than just a berth in Sunday's final.

"It would make my senior year, my whole high school career," Restino said.

The Panthers booked their return trip to the Final Four with a 4-0 win against Section VII champion AuSable Valley in the regional final last Saturday.

Friends Academy (9-4), of Section VIII, edged S.S. Seward, 2-0, Tuesday night in Middletown to advance. Standout midfielder Krystina Iordanou scored both goals from distance in the win.

Coach Tom Husser, who has led Hoosick Falls to two state titles in 12 seasons, made the trip to Middletown to scope out his team's semifinal foe. It was his first look at Friends since reviewing the championship game tape.

"I was so nervous driving down there and when I left there I wasn't as nervous," Husser said. "You know, you don't see them for a whole year and so you build up that idea of them, you think [last year's] game was so great."

Husser said the Quakers are missing five starters from their 2011 clash. Hoosick returns nine starters and most of its bench.

Iordanou, committed to play for Vanderbilt, remained Friends' engine against Seward. Blasting away from 25-plus yards with a dangerous left foot, the senior tallied twice in the last half hour to extend the Quakers' season.

"In the last 15, 20 minutes she must've had 10 shots from that same spot," Husser said. "We can't let her beat us."

Hoosick Falls (19-2), meanwhile, heads to the Final Four looking like it hasn't skipped a beat since the 2011 title game.

Winners of 15 of their last 16 games, the Panthers have outscored opponents 113-14 this year -- 30-1 in five playoff games -- to break the program scoring record set a year ago.

Husser's wish list for the final two games is brief.

"We just want two more wins, 160 minutes, that's all. No overtimes, no PKs," Husser said. "I like our chances."

Senior forward Grace Delurey leads the attack, playing a part in almost 50 percent of the Panthers' goals. She has scored 28, second only to freshman Jordyn Haynes (30), and her 23 helpers have her tied for second all-time in New York for assists in a season.

Three other players have double digit goals and assists: Martin (14 goals; 10 assists), Rachel Pine (14; 10) and Hayden (11; 14). Junior midfielder Mackenzie Hinchliffe also has 20 assists.

"As a team, I feel like we're better," Restino said, comparing the current run to the 2011 campaign. "Our chemistry this year has really improved and led us to where we are."

A state championship would make Hoosick Falls one of just nine schools with more than two in New York.

But, first, there's a little rematch to tend to -- and no sharing is allowed this time.

"We can't tie them this year," Martin said. "Literally, we can't."