BEMUS POINT - The way coach Mike Burr sees it, one's style of play perfectly compliments the other's, and vice versa.
On the one hand, there's Emma Franczak, a promising young sophomore still developing her game. On the other, there's Alex Novotny, an experienced senior that knows exactly what play needs to be made and when.
Together, the two forwards form a dangerous duo with which few opponents can contend.
Photo?by Rob Tucker
Maple Grove’s Sara Crossley (3) looks to make a move on Silver Creek’s Mary Bonasera (22) during their Section 6 Class C girls’ soccer quarterfinal Thursday, in Bemus Point.
It's a combination, in fact, that has either scored a goal, or assisted on one, in each of Maple Grove's last 14 games (all victories), and it was those players' innate ability to put points on the board that was on full display yet again during the Lady Red Dragons' Class C quarterfinal battle with visiting Silver Creek on Thursday afternoon.
Franczak finished the contest with a pair of goals and an assist, Novotny chipped in late in the second half with an assist (to Franczak) and No. 5 Maple Grove blanked the No. 13 Black Knights, 4-0, to remain undefeated and move on to the sectional semifinals against top-seeded Allegany-Limestone at Pioneer on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
With the victory Maple Grove improved to 18-0 this season. Over the past two seasons, the squad has gone a combined 35-1. Franczak has five assists in her last two playoff games. Novotny, meanwhile, has two goals and an assist over that same span.
"Alex is kind of the calming influence (on the offensive end)," Burr said. "She is so precise. And then Emma has that shear, raw power, so when you've got that 1-2 punch of two really different players it's great."
Franczak got the scoring started in lightning-quick fashion on Thursday. Just two minutes into the game, Franczak carried the ball down right sideline before crossing it into the area from the corner. The pass, perfectly placed, found teammate Sara Crossley as she raced down the field towards the far post, and from there senior did the rest as she calmly side-footed the ball past freshman goalkeeper Jamie Hehir.
That shot was Maple Grove's first of the day and, as it turned out, would be the only one necessary to capture the victory. But Franczak wasn't quite finished. Ten minutes later she swiped the ball from a Silver Creek defender at the left corner of the 18-yard box and without hesitation fired a shot that started low but kept gaining altitude until it skipped off the outstretched arms of a leaping Hehir and flew into the back of the net to push the advantage to two goals.
"Emma is picking it up," Burr said. "She's got such talent and when she gets going she's feisty, she gets after the ball and she is explosive. It was great to see that today."
After Emily Swanson scored her first goal of the season at the 36-minute mark, Franczak and Novotny put the finishing touches on the game at the 64th minute as Novotny won the ball in the area, made a quick centering pass and Franczak chipped a high-arching shot that landed softly across the line.
For Burr, the Lady Red Dragons' second-half play, which included a pair of goals and a strong defensive effort - they held Silver Creek to just one shot - was nearly perfect.
"I thought it was very good to excellent," he said. "It was very well played, skill-level wise and effort wise. We were hitting each other's feet better, we possessed the ball better and got after the ball much better."
While Silver Creek's (4-13-1) season did come to an end, coach Kevin Rice and his team was looking on the bright side.
"This was the most wins in a season for a Silver Creek girls soccer team," he said. "This is only our fifth year, so we're a young program, but to make it this far (into the playoffs) was great.
"We played the first half very well, but Maple Grove is ranked (sixth) in the state and is one of the best clubs in the Southern Tier."