Assistant Sports Editor
TROY, N.Y. -- It was only supposed to be a matter of time until the Schalmont Sabres girls soccer team, the top ranked team in the state in Class B, found a way around the Hoosick Falls Central School defense in the Section II Class B/BB finals on Saturday at Lansingburgh High School.
But after 40 minutes of play, even Schalmont coach Alaina Lange was starting to have her doubts on if it would come.
"I’m not going to lie, it was a little scary after the first half," Lange said. "Hats off to [Hoosick Falls] for giving a great effort."
But the Sabres would find the elusive first goal three minutes after the break, and strike three more times in the second half to secure a 4-0 victory.
"The first half, it was very emotional," Hoosick Falls coach Tom Husser said. "It was unbelievable. Hannah Fricke put on a performance in goal in that first half."
Indeed. The senior, with the help of her defensive line, was able to turn away everything that Schalmont threw her way in the first half, recording nine of her 12 saves.
"It was intense," Fricke said afterwards. "I really didn’t expect to come out and tie them going into halftime."
The Sabres’ Julia Rossi had three nice shots on net saved by Fricke, Madeline Saccocio saw Fricke parry away her shot and gobble up her cross in sequence and Schalmont’s offense ran into a two-part wall of Hannah Lilac and Alyssa Houghton nearly every time they entered the box.
"That flat back four can get you," Lange said. "They had numbers in behind, and they did a good job of keeping us down."
Right after the restart, the Panthers gave the Sabres one last scare before the goals started coming.
Jordyn Haynes, Hoosick Falls’ leading scorer on the season, found herself one-on-one with Sabres’ keeper Gabrielle Jours. Haynes let go of a shot, but Jours was able to make the save.
"We had our chances to score, but we didn’t," Husser said."We knew going in that they wouldn’t give us many chances. When we had them, we had to capitalize."
Moments later, Schalmont found the back of the net.
Rachel Cardinal, running down the right flank, sent a cross into the center of the box for Bianca Mascitelli. Mascitelli was able to chip the ball up and over the top, tucking the ball underneath the crossbar to make it 1-0.
"[The goal] started off the run for us," Lange said. "We knew they had a great keeper, and she showed it. We knew we had to get it in, and give her something she wasn’t expecting. [Mascitelli] got the ball and put it in the net one touch without them being able to do anything."
With just over 26 minutes remaining, the Sabres would find the second goal through Molly Older. Emily Culbert sent a ball over the top to Older, who was able to control possession and put one past Fricke to make it 2-0.
"I’ve always told the girls that a 1-0 lead is the scariest lead in soccer," Lange said. "They know that once we attack, we have to keep attacking."
The best chance came from Rachel Pine. Haynes played a long ball to Pine, who gathered possession on the right side of the box. Pine got off a shot, but the ball bounced off a defender, then just wide.
Schalmont would score the final two goals in the last five minutes, Saccocio netting the third with 5:17 left, then Cardinal would score the fourth on a curling effort after the restart to make it 4-0.
"[Schalmont] is an amazing team. It was amazing to keep them 0-0 at half and give them a scare," said senior Mackenzie Hinchliffe. "We played our hearts out, there was nothing else we could do."
For Hinchliffe, Lilac, Fricke, Claire Seifert, Dana O’Malley, and Alyssa Giordano, the loss marks the end of their illustrious career, which included back-to-back Class C state titles. There were tears to go around for them and the team, but even in defeat, Hinchliffe couldn’t help but smile when asked to describe the ride.
"A lot of us have played together since we were eight. It is really sad to see it end, but we had a great career together," Hinchliffe said.
The Panthers end the year with a 17-3 record. Schalmont improves to 20-0-0, and will play Marcellus in the State Regional semifinals.