Eli Ruiz | Democrat
Eldred’s Shannon Brucher is consoled by assistant coach Tom Brucher following the Yellowjackets state semifinal loss Saturday.
Story by Eli Ruiz
DRYDEN November 19, 2013 Eldred’s long-awaited trip to the state girls’ soccer final four didn’t turn out quite how they’d hoped. Defending state champion and No. 1 ranked Poland made quick work of the Yellowjackets, scoring three goals in the first half en route to a dominant 4-0 win at Tompkins-Cortland Community College.
Senior Paige Sullivan, who has played in the shadows of super sophomore Mikayla Blumenstock all season, blasted in a shot from about 40 feet out just eight minutes into the game and then added another goal less than two minutes later to give Poland (of the Utica area) a quick 2-0 lead and stagger an Eldred team treading into unknown territory.
“That’s always the plan [leading early],” offered Poland coach Tom Basel. “I would say that at this level in a state semifinal game, it’s a welcome surprise to get up early like we did. We don’t want to let up at one [goal]. We’ve got to keep that pressure on and I think we did a great job of keeping them pressured today.
“We’re a possession team and we were fortunately able to establish that pretty early in the game today and maintain it.”
“We still played our hearts out,” said Eldred goalie Jenna Burns. “They were just a strong shooting, powerful team. They beat us.”
With twelve saves on the day, Burns certainly had her work cut out for her as a dominant Poland squad seemed to be playing at an entirely different level. Its finesse, ball handling skills, team speed and ball possession dominance were on full display Saturday, limiting Eldred to just one shot on goal.
Eldred’s Shannon Brucher offered, “They were such a finesse team. We tried our hardest and that’s all we could do. We did everything we could do. I don’t know, it was a very tough loss but we did our best to get here.” Blumenstock, a sophomore and Poland’s career goals leader, made it 3-0 with 7:55 left in the first half with her 112 career goal; her 45th of the season.
“It’s all about us maintaining our spacing out there,” explained Basel. “When we maintain our spacing in the middle, it sets everyone else up and we’ve got some great finishers up top as you saw today.”
After the game Basel was asked about the “legacy” refrain his squad chanted after breaking from team huddles.
“It’s been our motto this year. We believe we’re building a legacy here,” said Basel. “We won the state title a year ago and our goal is to build this gift for future generations in Poland, so that they have this great reputation to uphold.
“I think that we can gain sort of an edge on the soccer field if Poland is named a team’s opponent they may be a bit intimidated.”
Apparently, Jasper-Troupsburg was not. The Section V team from the Corning area upset Poland 4-2 Sunday to claim the Class D championship.
For their part, Eldred did not give up and played a far more inspired defensive game in the second half against Poland (18-3), allowing a lone Sullivan goal for the final tally.
“They were really tough and opened our eyes and showed us what we could really learn from them,” said Eldred junior Angie Schadt. “I think we will definitely be working a lot harder in the future. We’re young, and this was a big lesson for us. I think we’ll come back from this a lot stronger next season.”
With more than a dozen players returning from this year’s state semifinal squad, including its three top scorers in Lynzee Kelty, Jordan Lepes and Melissa McMonagle, Eldred (11-8-1) seems set for a big 2014-15 season.