Cortland – You can call Stillwater’s state title run Sunday afternoon Pickett’s Charge. Calling it a total team effort also works or making history.
However one chooses to describe Stillwater’s 5-0 win against Little Falls in the state’s Class C girl soccer title game is probably fitting as coach Christine Ihnatolya’s played a terrific game at Cortland High School to capture the program’s first state crown.
“The defense executed and we capitalized on our chances,” the youthful coach said after her Section II champs made up for last year’s loss in the state finals with an impressive win.
No one was more impressive than Brooke Pickett, a speedy and skilled striker who was virtually unstoppable on a cold, clear day. The junior scored twice in the first half and completed a hat trick with a goal midway in the second half to end any hope the Mounties had of rallying.
“She just works hard every day,” Ihnatolya said of Pickett.
Stillwater (23-0) had to work hard from the start as Nicole failing had a corner kick for LF (20-3) in the third minute and had a shot on goal in the sixth. That set up one of the key counterattacking plays that were the difference.
Keelan Peacock muscled her way past a defender to get a shot on goal in the seventh minute. Kylie Miles made the save for LF but Pickett was there to tap in the rebound for a 1-0 lead.
Play went back and forth after that for a few minutes before Gabby Sylstra sent a pass to Failing that was almost a great scoring chance. Stillwater goalie read the play and got to the ball in time to deny a shot in the 12th minute.
Stillwater then had another quick counterattack aa minute later and it led to a Peacock corner kick. The ball was kicked around in a crowd just three yards in front of the goal before Miles grabbed it. Another corner kick followed seconds later but Sylstra cleared the ball from her spot at the post and it stayed a 1-0 game.
Sylstra had a shot sail high for LF in the 15th minute and it led to more back and forth play. Miles stopped Stillwater’s next great chance, a shot by Teya Staie, in the 23rd minute then Sylstra worked free for a shot that went high just a minute later.
The defenses took over for the next 10 minutes then came the game’s turning point. It started with 2:05 left in the half as Sylstra sent a pass that Failing controlled enough to force her foes to kick over the end line to create an LF corner kick.
With a little less than two minutes to play in the half, Geena Morotti sent in a ball that was cleared. Pickett won the ball near midfield, got half a step past her defender and broke in on Miles. Pickett’s shot was perfect and suddenly it was a 2-0 game.
“That goal at the end of the half really hurt,” LF coach Sal Marchese said. “We got behind then we started pressing.”
Maybe so, but LF created some good chances as it pressed forward to start the second half and Olivia Lindsay had two of them. The freshman forced Stillwater goalie Kiersten Conroy to make two saves and made a good run that Stillwater’s defense had to work hard to keep her from getting a clear shot on.
The teams traded chances in the 50th and 52nd minutes before Stillwater set up the game’s backbreaking score. It came in the 56th minute as Pickett worked around three defenders and scored unassisted to make it 3-0 and LF was never able to get a great shot on goal the rest of the way.
“Staying together as a team was key,” Ihnatolya said of a key to her team breaking through for her school’s historic championship. “The feelings are really indescribable. I couldn’t be happier or more proud of the girls.”
Stillwater capped the game with goals by Paige Brinsko and Peacock in the final eight minutes.
And those were the final minutes of Failing’s storied career at LF. The Mounties senior was upset and appreciative at game’s end.
“It was a great way to end, with two school records,” she said. “We had our first 20-win season and made it to the state finals for the first time. We had a strong bond.”
Miles finished with nine saves in defeat and Conroy made two for the shutout.
LF (20-3): Saves – Kylie Miles 9.
Stillwater (23-0): Brooke Pickett 3-0, Paige Brinsko 1-0, Keelan Peacock 1-1. Saves – Kiersten Conroy 2.