HOOSICK, N.Y. -- It was gut-check time for the Hoosick Falls Central School field hockey team. Up a goal early in the second half against Warrensburg, the Burghers tied the game and grabbed the momentum with 14 minutes left.
But as they've done all year, however, the top-seeded Panthers answered the bell. Less than a minute later, Caytlyn Springer scored the eventual game-winning goal off an assist from Elise North-Kirkman, sending Hoosick Falls back to the Section II, Class C finals with a 3-1 win on Wednesday afternoon.
"It just goes to show that they didn't take the wind out of our sails," said Hoosick Falls coach Denise Campbell. "It fired us up and picked up our intensity. We came right back and we're fortunate to find the corner. It was a tough shot we scored on, maybe that deflated them a little bit."
No. 4 Warrensburg took the early advantage, outplaying the Panthers for the first 15 minutes but the Burghers couldn't find the back of the cage.
Hoosick Falls took the momentum after that, with Liz Ryan (a two-goal scorer on the afternoon) making a run toward the goal but hitting it wide.
Ryan and the rest of the offense kept fighting and it finally paid off with 6:30 left in the first half. Carsen Williams fed the ball into the middle of the circle, where Ryan poked it home for the 1-0 lead.
"I think we underestimated the talent and determination of Warrensburg," Campbell said. "They have a lot of talent and leadership and they know how to win. [The goal] gave us a little bit of breathing room but not much."
In the second half, Warrensburg turned up the wick, getting four corners back-to-back, but the Hoosick defense came through, stopping them all.
"We always talk about if the open shot isn't there, draw the corner," said Warrensburg coach Teresa Colvin. "That give us the numbers game and forces them to run. The corners worked well and we had a couple of shots, but we couldn't put them in."
Hoosick almost doubled the lead with 16 minutes left when Ryan blasted a shot wide of the cage, but on the ensuing run the other way, Warrensburg earned a corner and finally took advantage.
Kerrigan Roth put the ball toward the Hoosick cage and Cregan Callahan tipped it past goalie Ashley St. Onge to tie it.
"Cregan was right were she needed to be, Kerrigan laid it in behind," Colvin said.
Less than a minute later, the Panthers rushed into the offensive zone, the ball on North-Kirkman's stick. She crossed into the crease and found Springer, who put it home to give Hoosick Falls the lead back.
"I knew we needed to score again to be in the lead," said Springer, who scored her 17th goal of the season. "I kept my stick down and it tipped off it perfectly and barely went over the line, it was a great goal. You know you need that one goal for the lead, it boosts everything and gives you energy."
Campbell was effusive in her praise for the senior North-Kirkman.
"I just talked to Elise to move the ball quickly forward to catch the defense off guard," Campbell said. "She listened and gave her teammate a great opportunity to put it in. It was an excellent job on her part."
With 10 minutes left, Hoosick Falls iced the game as Ryan scored her 26th goal of the season off a corner and an assist from Springer.
Warrensburg took one final gasp, but St. Onge was a wall in the cage, saving one with a kick save and another with her arm pad near her head.
"I could definitely take a deep breath but I have seen crazy stuff in the past," Campbell said. "I have a lot of confidence in our defense and St. Onge did a great job today. She hasn't faced a lot of shots this year so for her to play a huge role today is a compliment of her athleticism."
The Panthers move on to the finals on Sunday at Schuylerville against nemesis Greenwich. Last season on a frigid day at Shenendehowa, Greenwich won the sectional title after penalty strokes.
"It's going to be one of the biggest game that we've faced all year," Campbell said. "[Today was] a good test for us, getting us ready for Greenwich. Thank God we're finally going [to the finals] again."