NEW HARTFORD – In a matchup of Tri Valley League division leaders, it was New Hartford’s solid back line making the difference.
Led by Cassie Keady, Sidney Restivo, Brooke Manderson and Abby Barringer, the Spartans held the high-powered Central Valley Thunder scoreless in a 2-0 victory Thursday at Don Edick Field. New Hartford (7-0, 8-3) also edged the Thunder 2-1 earlier in the season and have handed CVA (8-1, 8-2) its only two losses of the season.
To hold CVA’s offense – led by star freshman forward Reilly Rich – to one goal over 160 minutes of soccer says a lot about the Spartans’ back line.
“The main thing is to keep pressure in the midfield and have the back line drop a bit and not get flat,” said Keady, who is a senior captain and the leader of the defense. “Because, if we get flat, that’s when they can hurt us with through balls. Also, our communication was very good today. In the games we get quiet, we struggle. When we talk, we play well.”
The Spartans’ possession game dominated play from the opening kick and it took just over a minute for speedy junior forward, Jordan Restivo, to give New Hartford the lead. Midfielder Julianne Sekula initiated the play with a perfect feed to Restivo, who stayed onside and got behind CVA’s defense to race in alone and beat keeper Alyssa Piccione with a perfect shot to the upper left corner.
“We’re doing well,” New Hartford head coach Frank DuRoss said. “Our focus is on our decision making and our speed of play. I said to the team to ‘come out early with good speed of play, make smart decisions with no blind passes’ and I think we did that well.”
The Spartans continued to control the tempo and terms of the game by showing patience with the ball. New Hartford didn’t force passes, and if nothing was there, they worked it back and stretched out the Thunder defense and waited for an opening to exploit.
CVA didn’t record a shot until seven minutes remained in the first half when Rich took a timely pass from Bethany Feldman and left footed a lofted shot that was expertly tapped over the net by New Hartford senior keeper Gabby Hobika.
Despite New Hartford’s control and complete dominance, which included a 7-1 edge in corners and 7-2 advantage in shots, the Spartans led just 1-0 at the break.
However, a bit of luck for the Spartans and misfortune for the Thunder doubled New Hartford’s lead with 34:32 remaining in the game. With New Hartford pressuring deep in CVA’s half, a shot redirected off a Thunder defender and Piccione had to quickly change direction. She dove to her right for the ball that was too close to the left post to let go. As she extended for the ball it bounced off her fingertips and New Hartford sophomore forward/midfielder Natalie Burns was all alone to knock it in the vacated goal for a 2-0 lead.
CVA has posted six shutouts and hasn’t allowed more than two goals in any game this season. Thursday, the Thunder defense, led by Camryn Stone, kept New Hartford’s offense in check the majority of the game, but they weren’t able to mount much offense against the Spartans’ talented midfield and defense.
“They are just mature on the ball,” CVA head coach David Wolfanger said. “My kids are still learning and not as mature with the ball. When they control possession, they control it and quickly can turn it to attack with some width. They can do that because they play three forwards, and not many teams can do that successfully.”
Rich has 20 goals on the season and is one of the premier offensive players in the section despite being just a freshman. However, the Spartans team defense has kept her scoreless in two games.
“They have a lot of speed on the back and we have weaknesses that they capitalize on,” Rich said. “We just have to find ways to deal with their pressure and speed, and keep our heads up and find the open passes. We are capable of doing that.”
DuRoss likes the overall progression of his defense this season and shutting down a talented CVA team was a good test for his squad.
“They have good threats,” DuRoss said. “And we made sure we had consistent pressure on their midfield and made sure we kept our shape and didn’t get flat on defense because if we did, Reilly and other players can make us pay.”
Both teams are back in action Tuesday with big league games. The Spartans, who haven’t lost a TVL game since falling to Whitesboro in the 2014 sectionals, host the RFA Black Knights. The Thunder, who lead the TVL Small School Division, host Whitesboro.
The Spartans are focused on getting back to the sectional final and winning this time. New Hartford fell 2-0 to Jamesville-DeWitt in the Class A title game last year. For that to happen, Sidney Restivo looks for consistent effort in every game.
“We work on staying together as a unit and covering for each other,” Sidney Restivo said. “We are doing pretty well and we really are working on keeping our intensity up no matter who we’re playing. If we can do that when we play easier teams it will come easier for us when we play the more difficult teams in sectionals.”
New Hartford 2, Central Valley 0
Central Valley (8-1, 8-2): Alyssa Piccione 9 saves; Cierra Doolen 2 saves.
New Hartford (7-0, 8-3): Jordan Restivo 1-0, Julianne Sekula 0-1, Natalie Burns 1-0. Gabby Hobika 1 save, Abby Buchholz 3 saves.