Weekly Feature

2017-11-08 / Sports

Girls team headed back to state final four; boys squad eliminated in Far West Regional

Soccer playoffs

Clarence’s girls soccer team will get the chance to see if the third time is indeed the charm Saturday when it once again takes on Massapequa in the state Class AA semifinals, a game that this year will be held at Cortland State College.

The Lady Red Devils, who defeated Fairport by a 1-0 count in Saturday’s Far West Regional to advance to the semifinals, has met Massapequa in that round in three of the last four years. The last meeting between the two in 2015, ended in Massapequa’s favor, 2-0. Both times Clarence has previously played Massapequa in the state semifinals, the Section VIII squad has gone on to win the state title.

“We’ll go over some set pieces and work on our shooting, but otherwise we’re just going to dig deep and hope lady luck shines down upon us,” girls coach Dave Stephan said. “We’ve got to be healthy too, so the girls will get a little bit of rest this week.”

The Lady Red Devils certainly earned some rest after taking down a tough Fairport squad in a game played at Williamsville South.

Goalie Grace Fabian came up big between the pipes to help her squad advance, including a crucial diving stop off a Fairport set piece that she dove in order to punch the ball off of the crossbar. Fabian finished the game with 10 saves for Clarence, while Emma Faso scored what would be the contest’s only tally off an assist from Cassandra Bykowicz with about six minutes to play in regulation. Bykowicz flicked a header at Fairport’s goalie and the ball settled in front of the net, where Faso was able to emerge from a scrum with the ball and send it over the goal line.

“This was the toughest Far West Regional for us to get to out of the four, with us having to really work for everything we got,” Stephan said. “Honestly, at the end of the game, I was shocked that we were going back to states, but I was also very impressed with how hard the girls worked to win that game. Us outworking them was a huge part of our success.

“It was just a really good battle,” Stephan continued. “We had a late injury to one of our defenders that day, but we were able to move some people around and plug those holes. Fairport was an extremely good team with really dangerous forwards, but we handled everything they threw at us. All of the girls played extremely well that day.”

Clarence had the opportunity to play extremely well in the regional after knocking off Williamsville North by a similar 1-0 count in the Section VI Class AA final that was played at Williamsville East on Halloween.

Fabian once again came up big between the pipes for the Lady Red Devils, turning aside all seven shots she faced. Natalie Armon, meanwhile, notched the game’s only goal with about 12 minutes to play in regulation off an assist from Hannah Rivett. Faso had stolen the clearing attempt off a Clarence corner kick and sent it back into the box, where Rivett slipped it over to Armon for the game winner.

“We knew it would be a close, difficult game, and not just because it’s tough to beat the same team three times in a year,” Stephan said. “Fortunately, we controlled most of the game. We’d been trying to shoot more from the outside lately and been seeing some results from it.”

Clarence’s boys team wasn’t as fortunate in its one-goal Far West Regional Saturday, as the Red Devils’ season came to an end at McQuaid’s hands.

McQuaid scored the game’s only goal seven minutes into the contest on a ball the Red Devils were unable to clear. The Knights had traffic in front of goalie Kenny Suen, making it difficult for Suen to get a clear view of the incoming shot.

Suen did make some solid saves on back-to-back chances in the second half — including the rebound of a two-on-one break — that gave the Red Devils’ spirits a lift, but in the end none of Clarence’s attempts at the equalizer found their way past McQuaid’s goalie.

Suen finished with 11 saves for the Red Devils.

“We created a bunch of opportunities in the first half, including some decent chances from the outside or from out wide, but we just couldn’t get the break that we needed,” boys coach Mike Silverstein said. “Their goalie handled all of our outside shots well; he swallowed up every shot and didn’t really allow any rebounds.”

The Red Devils finished the season 17-2-1 overall and loses six starters — including the entire back line and two center midfielders — out of the seven total seniors on the squad. It’s the fewest graduates Clarence loses off a team in a number of years, Silverstein said.

“We really did have a remarkable season,” Silverstein said. “These kids took a lot of pride in being successful this year. We won the league again and we scored 75 goals while only giving up eight. These seven seniors left a nice legacy behind both on and off the field, and it was just an absolute privilege to have these guys in our program.”

The boys team held its annual awards banquet Sunday to close out the year, with four main honors being announced. Kyle Harsch and Jake Bowman shared the Dan Gianadda Award, while Ben Langlotz was the Vinson Award winner. Chris O’Brien was the Rick Wojnar Award recipient, while Bobby O’Brien was the White Letter recipient.

email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

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