A group of Guilderland girls soccer fans had a tailgate party on Saturday, celebrating the Lady Dutch’s inaugural appearance in the state Class AA playoffs.
They had more reason to celebrate after it was done.
Goals by Angela Luizzi and Emily Center and some timely defensive play helped Guilderland (16-3-1) edge Section III champion Liverpool 2-1 in the Class AA regional final at Fulton High School.
With that, the Lady Dutch clinched their first-ever trip to the state final four in the Cortland-Homer area. Guilderland will face Webster Thomas (Section V) in next Saturday’s state semifinal at 5 p.m. at Cortland High School.
“It’s overwhelming,” said Guilderland head coach Curtis Snyder. “We always had great players before, but couldn’t break through. This year we have great athletes and soccer players, plus a great attitude.”
All of that had carried the Lady Dutch past Bethlehem by the same 2-1 margin for their historic first Section II title earlier in the week. Now it met Liverpool, who had played in this round a year ago but lost to Bethlehem 2-0.
Even though they had more experience in this situation, the Warriors found themselves in a defensive mode in the early going thanks to a steady Guilderland attack that, less than six minutes into the game, found the net.
The play started Ali Cardinal’s throw-in from the right side, which was strong enough to reach the middle of the field. Jessica Capone took the throw and passed it to Luizzi, who buried a 10-yard shot that Liverpool goalie Rebecca Phillips-Allen had no chance to stop.
Guilderland couldn’t add to its 1-0 lead the rest of the half, and Liverpool started to create scoring threats in the final minutes. Snyder said the key for his defense was to make sure none of the Warriors’ forwards even got a chance at longer possessions or scoring chances.
“We practice a lot on not even letting them get the ball,” he said.
Liverpool’s speedy sophomore forward, Ore Akinpelu, charged toward the net with the ball late in the first half. But in her most aggressive move of the night, Lady Dutch goalkeeper Jenna Cubello ran out 30 yards and kicked the ball away before Akinpelu could chip it past her into the unoccupied net, and the score remained 1-0 at halftime.
Cubello’s daring play loomed even larger when Laurie Knapp got tripped inside the 18-yard box less than five minutes into the second half, which led to a penalty kick. Center easily buried the shot in the left side of the net to double Guilderland’s lead to 2-0.
For a long while it looked like the game would end with a two-goal margin thanks to the effective work of midfielders Cardinal, Rebecca Golderman and Luaren Kogelmann, who kept the ball away from Liverpool’s fast attackers. However, Emma Geyer crushed a 25-yard shot past Cubello inside the top right corner of the net with 10:06 left in regulation to pull Liverpool within a goal.
The Lady Dutch played steady, effective defense down the stretch to hang on. The Warriors’ Breanna Sharpe twice had shots on the right side in the waning minutes, only to have Cubello catch them.