Bound for the final four
MIDDLETOWN, NY — Holy smokes, talk about a test of nerves, endurance and an indomitable will to win.
On Friday, November 3, the Eldred Lady Yellow Jackets girls’ soccer squad faced off against the Northville Lady Falcons to decide who would win the 2017 New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s (NYSPHSAA) Class D Regional Championship.
Add a dash of nail-biting action mixed with visions of coaches pulling out their hair on both sides of the bench, fans whooping it up for their respective teams, and you get the picture of a dash-to-the-finish high school girls soccer match.
Eldred took to the field undefeated (17-0), boasting a 16-0 record in regular season competition and a recent victory in sectionals, while Northville (15-5) wrapped up their season with a 2-1 loss to the Lady Yellow Jackets in hotly contested overtime.
Eldred has been a state quarterfinalist for the last three years, and with the dramatic OT victory moved on to its first Class D final four since 2013.
Both teams battled without quarter in the midfield, until Eldred’s Lenae Kelty broke a scoreless game with 2:43 remaining in the second half.
With the championship seemingly locked up, the Lady Yellow Jackets were stunned 36 seconds later as Northville’s Hannah Coupas tied it up with a devastating penalty kick at the 2:07 mark.
Faced with two mandatory 10-minute overtime periods, Kelty met the challenge, scoring the winning goal at 6:05 in the first extra-innings frame.
The action on the field was fast and furious during the match, but in the end the Lady Yellow Jackets prevailed, while both goalies made some heart-stopping saves during the game.
”Sometimes the better team doesn’t win,” said Northville’s coach Doug Hammons, adding, “It was a tough game.”
Back in 1986, Eldred’s coach Sonia Kidney made it to the state finals as an Eldred booter, and hopes to lead her team to the promised land in 2017.
“They are undefeated in the regular season, won the sectionals and now are on the way to the final four… each one of these girls gives their heart and soul to this game,” she said.
“They knew they had to come in with their heads on right and work as hard as they could… it was a really good fight.”
A few words from some of the key Eldred players:
Kassandra Weatherly (#8): “It was a tight game… it had a slow start, but we came out after they got that goal…. we knew we had to go out and attack them.”
Alaina Gaughn (#11): “I think it was amazing… it was definitely our turn to get it this year.”
LeaneKelty (#6): “It was a team effort… all the way,” she said, noting that teammates Paige Weyant and Jissela Labuda assisted in her game-winning goals.
Going into the match, Eldred’s star goalie Samantha “Sami” Clemmons had yielded a miserly total of four goals. She said, “I think it was pretty evenly matched throughout… we took turns dominating.” Reflecting a bit more on the game and the last minute PK by the opposition, she said, “When they came back you realize just how quickly the game can change; we thought we had it.”
Eldred’s goalie is known for putting it all on the line by making some incredible saves, ones that must surely cause more than a bit of consternation from the Lady Yellow Jackets’ coaches.
Clemmons’ philosophy in guarding the net against all comers could be summed up in the words of Marcos Porcius Cato, an elder statesman of the ancient Roman Empire, who once penned, “He who hesitates in lost.”
“I feel that if I don’t go out, then I’ll hesitate and make mistakes… I think it’s better to take chances because hesitation is not good for me.”
Fast-forwarding in history and with an eye on the states, Clemmons added, “I will never give up… I want to go all the way.”
For more photos, and to read about how the Yellow Jackets got to the regional championship, visit http://riverreporter.com/sports/eldred-headed-state-quarterfinal.