Cicero – Riley DeGrace picked the perfect time to have her first playoff goal, and it kept her team’s perfect record intact as a result.
The Iroquois sophomore scored unassisted just more than two minutes into the second half of Saturday’s Class B state field hockey game. The Section VI champs, now 21-0, made it stand up for a 1-0 win against Whitesboro.
“It feels really good,” DeGrace said afterward at Cicero-North Syracuse’s field. “I’m really glad we made it this far. Whitesboro has a really good team and a really good defense.”
Indeed. Led by freshman goalie Jessica MaHardy and seniors Paige Warmuth and Carina Haden, Whitesboro (11-5-2) kept favored Iroquois at bay for much of the November 5 contest. But generating offense was a challenge for the Section III champs.
“I think the really big thing is we didn’t play since last Saturday,” Coach Renee LaValley said. “We had to settle ourselves.”
Iroquois held a 7-1 edge in corners in the first half but could not generate many good shots on goal. The best may have been by Chantal Gauthier in the 11th minute, but MaHardy was able to make the save. It setup Iroquois for a corner, but Taylor Abraszak fanned on the shot and was just wide moments later when she had another chance.
Iroquois kept pressure on for the next few minutes, but that’s when Haden had some of her better plays of the game to deny any great chances. Late in the first half Sydney Scaccia tried a sweeping shot for Whitesboro but it was too weak to get through. LaValley’s team did get a late corner out of the play and Haden set up Samantha DeCondo for a great shot in the final seconds. Abbi Greier made a kick save for the visitors and it was 0-0 at the half.
It did not stay that way for long when play resumed as Mia D’Amato sent a corner pass to Gauthier for a shot that MaHardy needed to make a kick save on. Whitesboro could not clear the ball after that, though, and it set up DeGrace’s goal. It came after a long hit into the circle was kicked up high by MaHardy. The ball was settled and DeGrace was able to put it in for a 1-0 Iroquois lead.
Whitesboro had a succession of corners soon after the goal and Claire Wiley and Warmuth had shots that were turned away. Hayley Fonfara then helped the Section VI champs regain control for a few minutes and the freshman MaHardy was forced to make a few more saves to give her team hope.
DeGrace, Abraszek, Fonfara and Samantha Gaglio had chances for Iroquois minutes later but the Whitesboro defense did not break. Then, with 1:38 to play, Iroquois got another break as DeGrace helped create a chance for a penalty stroke that could have iced the game. Instead, Gauthier’s shot was too high and Whitesboro had one last chance to force overtime.
LaValley’s team just missed doing so as it earned two corners with time expired. The second chance was cleared by Iroquois’ Lydia Aroune and the whistled sounded to mark the end of Whitesboro’s season.
“Two corners at the end were a big deal,” LaValley said with pride about how her team never gave up despite being outshot 13-2. “My defense is strong and (MaHardy) did a heck of a job.”
Iroquois (21-0): Riley DeGrace 1-0. Saves – Abbi Greier 2.
Whitesboro (11-5-2): Saves – Jessica MaHardy 12.
Penalty corners: Iroquois 13, Whitesboro 10.