Somers claimed the Class A championship Sunday and did so in convincing fashion, beating Byram Hills, a team regarded all season as being among the elite in New York.
My game story follows, along with photos by James Alcorn. –Nancy
FREEDOM PLAINS It turns out the tiger isn’t made of paper, after all.
Somers, which entered the Section 1 Class A tournament with the second seed despite being undefeated, remained that way Sunday, upending No. 1 Byram Hills 4-0 at Arlington High School to claim the championship.
Somers (19-0) , who coach Paul Saia said was called a paper tiger for supposedly having a weak schedule, will play the Section 4-vs.-9 winner Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at Arlington in the regional final.
There was nothing weak about Bryam Hills (18-2), which had beaten Class AA champion North Rockland during the regular season.
But Sunday, the Tuskers outplayed the Bobcats in all facets of the game.
Somers keeper Lizzy Hanley (shown at top going high to grab a shot) had 10 saves but also out-raced the Bobcats to multiple loose balls in front of her net and grabbed dangerous crosses off corners before Byram Hills could get to them.
“She did a heck of a job,” Saia said, noting this is the first season she has gotten significant playing time.
Hanley benefitted from a swarming Somers defense. The play of the game may have belonged to Tusker Mary Murphy, who made a sliding stop of a Kelsey Goldring shot with Hanley out of the play with 24:42 left to play.
That was one of many great individual efforts that led to a nearly perfectly played game by Somers, which scored three goals in the first half with a fluctuating but sometimes semi-strong wind at its back.
A great defensive effort by Melissa Righetti led to the Tuskers’ first score. Righetti took the ball from Byram Hills deep in the Tuskers’ defensive zone and booted it way up field.
The Bobcats gained control but senior Ciara Ostrander stole it and went in on goal alone, deking Bobcat netminder Emma Giardina (nine saves) and scoring.
“Before the game we talked about how we had to go right at them and put them under pressure,” Ostrander said.
“We just wanted to shut them down in the first half,” added Righetti (pictured at right in bottom photo with fellow captains Michelle Wienecke, left ,and Hayley Bonner, center).
Somers scored against almost halfway through the first half when Shoshana Bedrosian buried a rebound of a Melina Couzis free kick.
Righetti triggered the third goal by turning on her jets down the right sideline, beating three Bobcats before passing high across the goal mouth, where Nicole Anes headed it in with 9:49 left in the first half.
Anes scored Somers’ final goal in the game’s closing two minutes on a penalty kick (photo below).
Byram Hills lost all-star Carly Barnett to a suspected concussion with Somers up just 1-0. Barnett’s head hit the artificial tent when she got tangled up in a loose ball race with a Tusker, who shoved her.
But Bobcat coach Mike Martino wouldn’t blame the loss on that.
“We were in our own heads tonight,” he said. “We just didn’t play aggressively. “
Somers, on the other hand, might have played its best game of the season in dethroning the defending section champion and claiming its fifth section title since 2004.
“We didn’t let up for one minute and we capitalized on every chance we had and played great team defense,” Ostrander said.
Notes: Byram Hills played much better in the second half but Somers was smart and didn’t just play a defensive game. It used its speed to spread the field and had a few long-ball breakouts. … Hanley has developed into quite the keeper. Sometimes tentative early in the season, she’s now an aggressive protector of her goal and uses her height to snare balls that would otherwise go in (an example being Rachel Polack’s second-half shot) or connect back-door for scoring chances. An example of her aggressive play occurred with 14:37 left in the first half. She raced out and dove on a thru-ball. A Somers player and Goldring, who were chasing the ball, fell over her. Hanley wasn’t given a save but there’s a good chance that play saved a goal, which could have changed the entire game, since a goal would have halved Somers’ lead. Before the half ended, she made a similar play, beating the speedy Raquel Gaudio to a ball. … Martino talked about Somers not only having good speed but being good in the air. … Martino wasn’t about to say the Bobcats would have won but he did say had his team played with the same intensity in the first half as it did in the second, “You never know.” … Righetti described herself as “ecstatic” over the win. … Righetti noted Somers lost the pre-game coin toss. Byram Hills elected to take the ball, giving Somers the option of which goal to defend in the first half. Righetti noted Saia wanted to go with the wind in the first half and would have also opted to have done so, rather than take the ball had the Tuskers won the toss. While the wind wasn’t nearly as brisk as it had been earlier for the Class C game, it was still blowing at the start of the game, less so at its close. How much it played into Somers’ early success is unclear but going with the wind certainly didn’t hurt. … Saia characterized Byram Hills as a great team that had a great year, including its win over North Rockland. He said Somers’ game plan was to “come out strong and play tight defensively,” which is exactly what the Tuskers did. … Somers’ last section title was in 2012, when it shared the crown with Pearl River but didn’t advance to regionals because the Pirates beat the Tuskers in a shootout. … Somers sometimes came on strong in the second half of games this season after seemingly going at three-quarters speed during the first half. That didn’t occur Sunday. The Tuskers hustled for every ball, opening to closing whistle. “We worked our butts off for 80 minutes for this moment,” Saia said. … Saia is officially the Tuskers’ first-year head coach but, in his previous, longtime role as an assistant, he was essentially Somers’ co-coach. He was also a very good Somers soccer player back when there was no Tusker girls team. In fact, then-Somers boys coach Drew Strauss launched the girls team right after Saia graduated from Somers in 1976.