October 11, 2013

Saranac girls focused heading into soccer playoffs


SARANAC — A season ago, a young Saranac girls’ soccer team kept pace in an extremely talented division in the Northern Soccer League.

After securing the No. 3 seed in the Section VII Class B playoffs, the Chiefs put together a pair of victories to reach the championship game, but fell by a single goal in the title game to Plattsburgh, 2-1.

Saranac used that run to secure a lot of experience and it appears to have paid off as the Chiefs have now moved to 12-0 in the Northern Soccer League action and 14-0 overall, which currently has them ranked sixth in the state for Class B.

With the success the team has endured to start the season, it is easy to get sidetracked with the hype. Coach Mary LoTemplio, however, has repeated to her team to take it “one game at a time.”

“We have to stay focused on the team we’re playing right now,” LoTemplio said. “Our goal for the season is to go out each and every day and get the job done.”

Saranac senior defenseman Lena Menia reiterated her coach’s philosophy.

“We’re very focused,” Menia said. “We don’t want to let down and we can’t go into the next game thinking it’s just another walk in the park.”

The Chiefs have outscored their opponents 57-16 over their first 14 games of the season. Some of the credit goes to the addition of junior Ellen Thew, who missed the entire 2012 season due to injury.

“Ellen is a very good goal scorer and she takes some pressure off of our other players,” LoTemplio said. “She has scored a lot, but so have a lot of our players.”

Thew is just one of Saranac’s many offensive weapons. She leads the team with 43 points on 19 goals and five assists.

Right behind Thew is Kayla Napper. She has accumulated 34 points on 13 goals and eight assists. Summer Gillespie now has 33 points with 12 goals and nine assists, while Amy LoTemplio has 23 points on five goals and 13 assists.

The ability to put points on the board is one of Saranac’s greatest strengths. However, the Chiefs’ defense, which is led by standout senior goalie Jamie Favreau, has played excellent as of late. Saranac has only allowed seven goals in the past nine games, including three shutouts.

“Our defense has started to play more consistently,” LoTemplio said. “We have a strong goalie, and I think our whole defense is beginning to understand how to work as a group.”

One of the shutouts during this stretch came against league rival Beekmantown. Saranac handed the No. 20-ranked Eagles their only two losses of the season — and in both of those games the Chiefs captured victories of 1-0.

“We’re hoping for another banner this year,” Menia said. “If we play the way we played against Beekmantown, we can.”

“We have the most potential and the right chemistry,” Favreau said. “We have a great team, we work well together and we’ll go as far as our team lets us.”

LoTemplio’s 16-man roster only has four seniors, but after last season’s run the team is loaded with a lot of playoff experience. After the loss to the Hornets in the title game a year ago, LoTemplio believes as though that loss has made her team better this season.

“It hurts to lose, but it was a good learning experience,” LoTemplio said. “In all honesty, Plattsburgh had more talent than us last year. We can’t give that excuse this year; we have the talent to win it all.”

The Chiefs have seen their potential and realize they not only have the opportunity for a sectional championship, but possibly a state championship as well.

“The girls were just talking about where the state finals were and that they were going to Cortland,” LoTemplio said. “I’ve been telling them to stay focused, win our league and sectional championship, and then we’ll see where we go from there.”

“Everyone individually has gotten better and our potential, you can see, is growing,” Menia said. “But we don’t want to get caught too much in our own heads.”

LoTemplio has coached Saranac for a number of years and has been involved with many teams, including some very successful teams. But, even she admitted that this 2013 squad is one of the most talented she has coached.

“I’ve really got to put them up there with my Final Four team,” LoTemplio said. “If I had to look at them, what I had then and now, making adjustments for the different eras, they are right up there with that group.”

As highly as LoTemplio views her girls, the team spoke just as highly of their coach.

“It’s like we’re her kids,” Favreau said. “We’ve all played a lot of sports and had a lot of coaches, and it’s really saying something, but she is the best coach.”

“She knows us individually and knows how to handle us,” Menia said. “I just feel like, whatever game we’re in, she outcoaches the other team.”

On paper, the Chiefs have the players and the coaching staff to make a run for a sectional championship. But, they are not trying to get ahead of themselves.

They will take the rest of the season as their coach has put it, “one game at a time.”