When the Chazy boys' soccer team scored its second goal last Saturday against Parishville-Hopkinton, coach Rob McAuliffe was able to breathe a little easier.
The defending NYSPHSAA Class D state champions, who ended up defeating the Section X champions, 2-0, in regional play, have been pushed to the limit lately, especially in Section VII play.
Still, the Eagles are two wins away from achieving the goal they have every season — a state championship — and McAuliffe likes what he sees from his team.
"The players have a belief in one another, and they know they need to win two more games," he said. "We have been defending well pretty much all season long. And I believe we have players who know how to finish.
"I'm confident we will continue to play well."
The Eagles (17-3) return to the state Final Four this weekend at Middletown High School.
Today's semifinals feature Chazy against Section V's Alfred-Almond (18-1-2), the top-ranked team in the state, at 1:30 p.m., followed by Section III's Hamilton against Section II's Fort Ann at 4 p.m.
Chazy, which has won two Class D state championships in a row and five in the last seven years, edged Hamilton, 1-0, in last year's state title game following a 5-0 win over Fort Ann in the semifinals.
The state championship game is set for Sunday at 1 p.m.
Third-ranked Chazy is outscoring its opponents, 95-6, while Alfred-Almond, who are also the Eagles, are holding a 76-6 advantage over their foes.
Brandon Laurin (24-7-55) leads Chazy in scoring, while six other players — Jordan Barriere (7-14-28), Nathan Reynolds (10-6-26), Hunter Dominy (8-7-23), Nelson Pelton (7-8-22), Josh Barriere (6-7-19) and Alex Sweet (6-6-18) — have accounted for 18 points or more.
Alfred-Almond has three players — Markus Ernest (23-11-57), Mitchell Porter (19-10-48) and Chris Cook (13-17-43) — who have combined for 148 points on the season.
Alfred-Almond, which hasn't allowed a goal since Oct. 4, recorded a 2-0 win over Section VI's North Collins in regional play.
This is the first appearance for Alfred-Almond in the Final Four.
"We don't know a lot about them," McAuliffe said. "But any team that comes out of Section V, which is the Rochester area, is a quality team and we expect it to be a tough game.
"It's Alfred-Almond's first time to the Final Four and I can't foresee how they will handle the pressure. But I feel very confident about our team. We have a lot of boys who have played at this level and are experienced."
The Eagles have been involved in low-scoring games of late, and McAuliffe doesn't expect that to change.
"At this level, you have to take whatever is given to you," he said. "But I don't expect a 5-4 game.
"We have to defend well like we have been doing. And we have to finish on the chances we'll get. We know we're going to be in close games."
McAuliffe doesn't see a big difference between this year's team and Chazy teams of the past.
"With this team, it's a little different feeling because this group is feeding off the fact that we're two-time defending state champions," he said.
"They're excited about the challenge."
Coach: Rob McAuliffe
Player g a pt
Brandon Laurin 24 7 55
Jordan Barriere 7 14 28
Nathan Reynolds 10 6 26
Hunter Dominy 8 7 23
Nelson Pelton 7 8 22
Josh Barriere 6 7 19
Alex Sweet 6 6 18
Nolan Rogers 4 4 12
Cole Chaskey 3 3 9
Craig Botten 3 2 8
Justin Brothers 3 2 8
Player gp ga sv sho
Austin Santor 20 6 68 16
Coach: Greg Cook
Player g a pt
Markus Ernest 23 11 57
Mitchell Porter 19 10 48
Chris Cook 13 17 43
Connor Calkins 6 9 21
Keith Vosburg 7 2 16
Carlos McInnes 3 2 8
Pramod Rao 1 3 5
John Mormino 2 0 4
Player gp ga sv
Patrick Chamberlain 21 6 62