HERKIMER – Soccer, maybe even more so than any other sport, comes down to what you do with your chances.
During Saturday’s Class D Boys state quarterfinal, South Kortright made the most of its opportunities in blanking Poland 2-0 at HCCC’s Wehrum Stadium. Stanley Anderson and Dawson Darling scored goals as the Rams (18-1) advance to the New York State Final Four where they’ll meet Section 9’s Mount Academy 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 11 at Middletown High School.
“They just finished,” said Poland star senior P.J. Mahoney. “We both had a lot of chances, they just scored. We had chances but didn’t put them in. We couldn’t find the back of the net today.”
Both teams came out quickly and Poland (16-3-2) nearly struck first in the opening seconds, but a scramble right in front of South Kortright’s goal didn’t result in a shot on goal. The Rams gained their footing and gained a slight edge in possession time for the next 10 minutes, but the Tornadoes countered and had several chances, including a header by Kade Ozog that rattled off the right post with 15:45 remaining until the break.
“In the first half we started off with the better play and if we could’ve scored it would’ve made a difference,” Poland head coach Greg Haver said. “Then they capitalized and got a goal on one of our defensive mistakes, and we are chasing them. If we score that one, then they are chasing us. It could’ve been a game-changer.”
Poland freshman keeper Connor Broadbent finished with 13 saves and made several key stops for the Tornadoes. With South Kortright owning a decided 7-2 advantage on corners, Broadbent was able to use his size, strength and positioning to turn away opportunities off set pieces.
In the final 10 minutes of the first half, the Rams applied the heat and finally broke through as Anderson took a short feed from Darling inside 10’ from the goal and beat Broadbent inside the right post to make it 1-0 with 4:06 remaining.
South Kortright made a strong push early in the second half with three good scoring chances in the opening few minutes. In the first 15 minutes the field was heavily tilted in the Rams’ favor, but Broadbent stood strong in keeping the Tornadoes’ hopes alive. The Rams best chance came in the 51st minute when Darling, off a pass from Alex Funk, drilled a shot appearing labeled for the left corner. However, Broadbent extended to his left and snared it for a great save.
Poland’s offense picked up steam midway through the second half, and with South Kortright defending its lead, the Tornadoes had several chances to knot the score. A few of their opportunities were nullified by close offside calls, and others by Mahoney were stymied by either the Rams defense or by junior keeper Aidan Fox.
“Their defense did a good job getting the ball out of their zone,” Mahoney said. “And we didn’t do a good enough job pressuring them so they couldn’t get the ball out.”
With the one-goal advantage, the Rams were definitely sagging back and playing defensively. That didn’t stop them from making counters. One of those runs, led to the insurance goal they coveted as Darling stepped into a feed from Logan Kaufman and crushed a perfect shot that skimmed the bottom of the crossbar and ricocheted into the left corner for a goal with 5:31 remaining.
Mahoney is proud of the progress his team has showed during his four seasons. During his freshman campaign in 2014, Poland had a 4-12 mark, and what Mahoney called “the worst season in program history.” The next season they made it to the first round of sectionals, and then all the way to the sectional finals in 2016.
In his senior campaign, Mahoney not only led his Tornadoes in scoring, but also to the sectional title with a 2-0 victory over Lyme. Although his high school soccer career is finished, Mahoney has helped set the standard and believes the sky’s the limit going forward.
“I don’t see any reason why next year they can’t make it all the way to states,” Mahoney said.
Haver agrees the future is bright, but also wanted to acknowledge the tremendous effort this team has put in to attaining another sectional championship.
“They put in so much hard work,” Haver said of his 2017 squad. “(Steady improvement) is something we’ve been working on, and moving forward I think we can continue to improve.”
Fox finished with seven saves for the Rams, who will be making their second straight trip to the state semifinals. South Kortright lost 2-1 in overtime in the semis last season.
New York State Class D Quarterfinal
South Kortright 2, Poland 0
Poland (16-3-2): Connor Broadbent 13 saves.
South Kortright (18-1): Dawson Darling 1-1, Stanley Anderson 1-0, Logan Kaufman 0-1. Aidan Fox 7 saves.