CORTLAND — A tremendous season for the Saranac girls soccer team came to an end on Saturday at the NYSPHSAA Class B girls soccer final four.
The Chiefs (18-1-1) met Section I’s Bronxville (19-1-1), and the Broncos turned out to be a high-caliber opponent unlike any other that the previously undefeated Section VII champions had faced all fall.
Amy Villanueva, Cece Jablonsky and Whitney Rowan all scored once for Bronxville to lead the Broncos to a 3-0 win against Saranac in a semifinal.
For the Chiefs, there were moments where Saranac coach Amber Liberty thought her team was finding its groove, but the rhythm was never completely found.
“Bronxville was the better team today,” Liberty said.
“We knew everything was going to be faster than anything we had seen. I think there were times where we were confident and played our hearts out. We were so close a couple times where it could have been game changing.”
The Chiefs fell behind early and were put into a bit of shock when Villanueva finished off a feed from Madeline Stupart just before the 8-minute mark of the first half.
Shortly after, Saranac faced its biggest deficit all season when Jablonsky put home Lily Jebejian’s corner kick with 28:57 remaining.
The Chiefs’ Olivia Davis nearly got in on a breakaway shortly after the second goal, but the Bronxville defense proved to be up for the task and broke up the opportunity.
That turned out to be a big storyline of the Broncos’ victory.
The Bronxville defense never let Saranac truly get going.
“We play a lot out to our wings, and they had a very deep sweeper,” Liberty said. “They did a good job of keeping compact but also spreading out in a way that made it tough for us to do what we do. Our through balls were not there, and we struggled playing to feet. We were just out of reach the whole game.”
Out of the halftime break, Saranac had some of its best chances early.
Not even a minute in, Marissa Leduc hit the outside of the net with a shot that had some promise.
Davis then connected on a cross to the Chiefs’ Sydney Myers with 30:30 to go in the second half, but Myers could not get much on the shot, which allowed Milly Koenig to make the save.
Koenig turned in a three-save shutout, while Grace Damiani turned away 10 shots in the Saranac nets.
“I told the girls that they have not been here at halftime,” Liberty said, referencing how the Chiefs faced a 2-0 deficit. “I was hoping that would motivate them a little. I truly believed they could come back right until the final minutes, and they had a great start to the second half.”
With about 25 minutes remaining, the possession battle shifted back to the Broncos, and they never let up.
Rowan ripped home a rocket of a shot with 8:57 remaining to deliver the dagger, and Ava Singh picked up the assist.
Liberty said the loss will leave a sour taste in her squad’s mouth, but she knows her players will be ready and wanting more next season.
“They have created a whole family culture,” Liberty said. “They rely on each other. I don’t know if there has ever been a team that has played more like a team if that makes sense. They all played to their roles and won together.”
She said she loves her team and will miss having seniors Kennedy Ubl, Ada Johnston, Eden Christon, Reese Montville, Tori Wells and Leduc around next season.
For those who played their final games and all the returners next season, there’s a new level of motivation and unfinished business.
“I think they were ready again when the final whistle blew, and they wanted to play right there all over again,” Liberty said.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that this team is ready to go and will want it more.”
Bronxville 3, Saranac 0
BRX 2 1 — 3
SCS 0 0 — 0
First half- 1, BRX, Villanueva (Stupart), 32:05. 2, BRX, Jablonsky (Jebejian), 28:57.
Second half- 3, BRX, Rowan (Singh), 8:57.
Shots- Bronxville, 15-6.
Saves- Koenig, BRX, 3. Damiani, SCS, 10.
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