Eldred will have to somehow stop Poland’s Mikayla Blumenstock (left in blue). The sophomore forward scored 44 goals this season and is already the school’s all-time leading goal scorer.
Eldred preps for powerful Poland
CORTLAND November 15, 2013 The Eldred girls’ soccer team will be playing in its first-ever state Final Four game Saturday at Thompkins-Cortland Community College at 12 p.m. They will be up against a bonafide powerhouse in Poland, the defending state Class D champions currently ranked No. 1 and riding an 11-game winning streak. The Section III school is 17-2 both losses by one goal to Class C Sauquoit Valley. They have outscored their opponents 101-17 on the season.
Just how good is Poland? After losing 4-0 in last week’s regional final, Milford coach Chris Saggese simply said: “They're the best Class D girls soccer team I've ever seen, hands-down. They have it all, skill, possession and ball movement.”
They also have sophomore sensation Mikayla Blumenstock who is already the school’s all-time leading goal scorer with 111 goals, including an eye-opening 44 this season.
"She just has an instinct for scoring," said Poland coach Tom Basel. "Other teams try to mark her and keep her down, but she just finds a way to score."
Says a humble Blumenstock: "I'm just the finisher, and my team helps me bring it up. I couldn't have made any of those goals without them."
Eldred coach JJ Gass hasn’t seen Poland play, but he’s read and heard plenty about the aptly-named Tornadoes.
“All we really know about Poland is what we were able to read online,” said Gass. “They have a lot of talent, they are number 1 in the state, and they are the reigning Class D state champs. Their leading scorer has 44 goals this year and they have blown out almost everyone they have played.
“They have a very good soccer program and seem to be a regular at the final four in recent years. In order to prepare for this game we need to tighten up our defense and do the things we have done throughout the year such as, playing aggressive, winning the 50/50 balls, and running through the ball. If we do all those little things against a team like Poland, we have a shot to win.”
Gass is hoping that Eldred’s tough schedule this season in which they played 11 games against Class C schools or higher will prepare them for a team like Poland.
“Being able to play [Class C] teams like Seward and Chester, who were both state ranked, allowed us to get better as a team, said Gass. “Winning some of the games against those bigger schools also gives our team confidence that they deserve to be on the field against any team.”
Though Gass believed early on he had a team with potential, he didn’t think they would necessarily take him all the way to Cortland and hold their current No. 4 ranking in the state.
“I knew we had some talent with the incoming freshman and the players returning from last year to make a run at the Section 9 title, but to make it to the Final Four is something that was not expected.”
What makes this team unique according to Gass is its ability to mesh on and off the field.
“The way the girls are together both on and off the field along with each player having their teammates back is special,” said Gass. “Their is a pressure relief because of that, which allows them to come up big in games during a big moment. Even when were started off the season 1-4, the girls stayed confident that we had a team that could compete with anyone. This team never backed down when things weren't going our way and that is the main reason we have been able to do what we have done this year.”
As for the players, they’re confident and cognizant of what they’re accomplishing.
“Now that we’ve done this, we can do anything, said Melissa McMonagle, who fell and fractured her wrist during Saturday’s regional final game. “ We can go all the way. We’re making history, why stop now. “
Said Addie Bodnaruik: “It’s definitely a shock. It’s a great feeling that we made it this far. I really think we have a strong enough team to hopefully make it the rest of the way and win states.”
Even if that doesn’t occur, Gass said his girls can be very proud.
“No matter what happens up in Cortland this weekend, they have had a season to remember.”