Silver Creek's best girls soccer season in recent memory came to an end Tuesday at the feet of the Allegany-Limestone Lady Gators.
After nearly 74 minutes of scoreless soccer, Shanell Woods picked the perfect time to score the eventual game-winning goal as the Lady Gators edged the Black Knights, 1-0, in a Section 6 Class C semifinal at Dunkirk's Karl Hoeppner Field.
"It takes a little bit of a (lucky) bounce sometimes," Allegany-Limestone head coach Dale MacArthur said. "There were opportunities, we just weren't converting. We're not a high-scoring team, we struggle to score."
Photo by Emily Sack
Silver Creek's Emily Harford (4) battles for possession of the ball with Allegany-Limestone's Hunter O'Dell during their Section 6 Class C girls soccer semifinal Tuesday night at Dunkirk's Karl Hoeppner Field.
Woods' second goal of the year came with 5:54 left on a high, arching shot from 20 yards out that just got over the outstretched hands of Silver Creek keeper Jamie Hehir.
"I'm surely not going to call it a soft goal," Silver Creek head coach Kevin Rice said. "But there were some better shots that they certainly had that our keeper bailed us out on.
"A goal is a goal," Rice continued. "The girl got the ball on her foot 19, 20 yards away, she hit a good shot and it went in."
Hehir finished with nine saves on the night.
"She knew coming into this game she was going to have to make some really big saves," Rice said of Hehir. "And she did, she really kept us in it."
The Lady Gators controlled the pace of play, spending the majority of the game in the Black Knights' end of the field.
"That's what Allegany-Limestone does with their passing," Rice said. "They get you flat-footed where you're watching. You're watching the pass and you're trying to figure out where you want to be with the next move, instead of when they get into our half (of the field), staying with your mark and keeping your eye where the ball is. It's kind of like basketball where you're keeping your eye inside where (the ball) is, but not losing sight of your mark, so when the ball shifts to you, you're able to be in a better position to make a play. Sometimes we got a little flat-footed and ball watched."
"We possess the ball pretty well and we play pretty good defense," MacArthur added. "Between those two things, hopefully we limit the other team's opportunity to score."
The Lady Gators limited the Black Knights to just four shots on goal and one legitimate scoring chance, which came with just under eight minutes remaining in the half. Emily Harford received the ball out of bounds, then executed a perfect somersault throw-in that ended up deep inside the Allegany-Limestone 18-yard box, but no one was home to put the ball in the back of the net.
"That was our opportunity," Rice said. "We caught (Allegany-Limestone), they were flat-footed and we just didn't have someone making a run on the back post."
The rest of the match went the same way as the previous 73 minutes as the Lady Gators went back to doing what they do best.
"You're talking about a program that has state title banners hanging in their gym for girls' soccer," Rice said of Allegany-Limestone. "This is only our sixth full season. Again, it comes down to skill. More of their girls are comfortable with the ball at their feet. (They use) short 5-, 10-yard passes and their ability to run their triangles is very good."
"We work very hard on controlling the ball and passing well," MacArthur added. "And controlling it once we get it. And we work on spreading out the field, or trying to."
One thing the Lady Gators weren't able to do Tuesday night was take advantage of its 7-0 edge in corner kicks.
"I sure was (disappointed)," MacArthur said. "We worked on them and worked on them, because it's one of the few times we get the ball where we want it and (then) we just have to execute."
Despite the outcome of the game, Rice knows his players have no reason to hang their heads.
"I just told them that I know it's tough, I know it's emotional, but they've got nothing to be sad about," Rice said. "They played their hearts out, they gave me everything that they had and look at the season we had ... The (previous) two seasons we had five wins combined and this year we won 12 games and made it to the semifinals of the Class C Sectionals. They have nothing to do but be proud of themselves for their effort."
As for the future of the program, Rice knows things are still looking up.
"I've got seven seniors, I only lose four starters though," Rice said. "I've got a good strong nucleus of the team coming back next year.
"I absolutely hope going forward that we are going to consistently able to be competitive," Rice continued. "And put ourselves in a position to challenge some of these teams in the Sectional tournament."