LaGRANGE The goals came early and often as No. 2 Haldane defeated No. 1 Solomon Schechter 4-0, notching two scores in the first five minutes, to win its third-straight Class C sectional title at Arlington Sunday.
Brianna DiFrancesco scored in the third minute followed by a Marina Martin goal two minutes later to give the Blue Devils a commanding lead in the opening moments.
“It was definitely very important,” said Haldane senior captain Jess Harrison of taking a two-goal advantage early. “We had the wind with us, which helped a lot. We just came out with a lot of fire.”
Blue Devils’ coach Gary Van Asselt said playing aggressively early has always been a mantra for his teams.
“They feed off it,” Van Asselt said. “Jumping on the gas pedal to start the game is our goal every year.”
Haldane maintained possession almost the entire first half, outshooting the Lions 14 to zero. Allie Monteleone added an insurance goal late in the half, heading in a Samantha Heanue corner.
Kate Lahey padded the lead midway through the second half to make it 4-0. The Blue Devils’ defense stood tall as well, allowing only one two Lions’ shots in the game.
“It was a total team effort,” Van Asselt said.
The fact Haldane plays in a league made up of mostly Class A schools has played a factor in the Blue Devils’ success in sectionals.
“It definitely prepared us for the postseason,” Harrison said. “Get us in the mindset of playing quicker and at the level we need to be.”
The Blue Devils will take on Section 9’s S.S. Seward in the regional semifinals Tuesday at Middletown at 4:30 p.m.
Haldane is no stranger to the Spartans. S.S. Seward, who has won 13-straight sectional titles, ended the Blue Devils bid for a state championship the past two seasons. It’s been a tough road for Section 1’s Class C teams in general. North Salem was the last local team to advance past the regional semifinals, beating Tuxedo 1-0 in 2008.
While S.S. Steward topped Haldane 3-0 in the regional semifinals in 2012, Van Asselt said the score wasn’t an indication of how the game was played.
“We hits some posts last year and missed a penalty kick,” Van Asselt said. “They had two breakaways and that was the difference. We controlled 80 percent of the game.”
Harrison said winning a third-straight sectional title is a nice reward for the hard work the entire team has put in over the years.
“It just shows that we’re raising the bar,” Harrison said. “We’re setting a new standard, especially for soccer, at our school.”