HOMER — Their hopes were uncertain for a while, as if clouded by the wind-blown snow flurries at Homer High School.
But before it was over, the school’s all-time leading goal-scorer had struck for the biggest goal of the season ... maybe the biggest in Fort Ann girls soccer history. And that will have the Cardinals playing for a state title on Sunday morning.
Sarah Paige scored midway through the first overtime and the Cards hung on for a 2-1 victory over Parishville-Hopkinton on Saturday in the Class D semifinals of the State Girls Soccer Tournament. The Cardinals are the first Section II team north of Saratoga to play in a championship game.
Yes, Fort Ann, the school better known for its softball prowess, the school that played eight Section II finals before winning its first title, will face Kendall at Tompkins Cortland Community College at 10:30 a.m. Sunday in the state championship game.
“It feels incredible, especially in soccer,” said Amanda Godfrey, who scored Fort Ann’s first-half goal. “It feels unbelievable to be here.”
The game was played on a field glazed with snow and ice crystals, and Fort Ann ran over it with a 1-0 lead for most of the game. The Cards scored inside of the first 10 minutes and were still riding that one goal in the 69th minute when Parishville-Hopkinton tied it up. Soon the Cards were trying to reset for overtime.
“We were struggling with our emotions,” coach Jason Humiston said. “A couple of girls were frustrated with how they were playing. I was hoping it wouldn’t get away from us. I was yelling at a few of our girls to stay in the moment.”
“It’s pretty tough,” Paige said. “We were trying to play more defensive (before the Parishville-Hopkinton goal), and we just had to switch and play more offense for overtime. We did a good job of regrouping. We all came out stronger than ever. We were ready.”
The game-winning goal began with Faith Lehoisky’s goal kick. Godfrey quickly got the ball upfield to Paige, who broke down the right side. She fired the shot into the far side of the net, her 46th goal of the season.
“I saw an open gap,” Paige said. “I was aiming for the corner. I knew it would skid, because the turf is really wet, so coach was telling us to keep it low and hard and that’s what I tried to do.”
It was cold — so cold that both teams scrambled to their buses to warm up at halftime — and the field conditions were challenging. Fort Ann started with the wind at its back for the third straight game and wanted to make good use of that advantage.
The Cards struck first when Kylah Lindgren sent a perfect left-to-right crossing pass to Godfrey, who fired into top of the net.
“Kylah switched fields perfectly,” Humiston said. “Right to Amanda, and Amanda nailed it. Just what we teach them ... change the field, went right to Amanda’s foot, upper 90.”
But they couldn’t get a second goal, and the Cardinals’ defense came under more pressure in the second half with the wind coming at them. The defense held up pretty well under pressure, holding the Panthers to a limited number of quality chances.
“(The Panthers were) very fast and skilled, they knew how to handle the ball,” defender Natalie VanKirk said. “We were good at defending, containing the ball, watching what they were going to do. We were really good at marking up.”
The Cardinals celebrated a little after noon on Saturday as the skies were clearing. They earned another night in the hotel and one more game, where they’ll write the final chapter of the school’s best girls soccer season in history.
Class D State Semifinal
Fort Ann (15-3-3) 1 0 1 0 — 2
Parishville-Hop. (16-2-3) 0 1 0 0 — 1
First half: 1, Fort Ann, Amanda Godfrey (Kylah Lindgren), 8:30.
Second half: 2, Parishville-Hopkinton, Erica Sloan (Hannnah Zenger), 67:02.
First overtime: 3, Fort Ann, Sarah Paige (Amanda Godfrey), 84:01.
Second overtime: None.
Goalies-saves: Faith Lehoisky (FA) 5, Brenna Woods (PH) 5.
Corner kicks: Parishville-Hopkinton 4, Fort Ann 3.