MECHANICVILLE — The Fort Ann Cardinals made themselves right at home for their two games at Mechanicville High School.
They played like they owned the place, save possibly for a fickle, shifting wind that defied ownership. Two straight shutouts will have them packing up and heading to a new home next weekend — specifically, the Cortland area.
Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Eldred in a Class D state regional final gave the Cardinals their first trip to the state final four in girls soccer. And it will be a whole new experience, even for a team whose players appear in the state final four in softball year after year.
The State Softball Tournament has been held in the Glens Falls area for many years, meaning that the Cardinals just drive a few miles down the road to get to their games.
“That was my big spiel,” coach Jason Humiston said, “we get a charter bus, we get hotels ... what more could you want?”
Sarah Paige and Amanda Godfrey scored early first-half goals in a game that played out much like their Section II title-clinching victory of Wednesday on the same field. Goalie Faith Lehoisky posted her second straight shutout.
The early lead came as Fort Ann was able to spring its two big guns to score before the game was 11 minutes old.
“They were pulling an offside trap, and we would try to slide the ball through the middle,” Humiston said.
The first goal came at the 7:42 mark when Paige took Allison Keith’s pass and got behind the defense for her 45th goal of the season. A couple of minutes later, Kylah Lindgren set up Godfrey, who deked a defender and beat the goalie for her 23rd of the year.
The game might have gotten out of hand had it not been for a couple of very big saves by Eldred goalie Kailee Mohan.
“It was good to get (those goals) early and focus on our defense,” Godfrey said.
The Cards were pretty solid on defense in the second half, but Eldred gave Fort Ann a couple of scares. One shot went off the cross bar from the right side and the rebound was cleared by Keith near the goal line.
“I was so happy she was there,” Lehoisky said. “I hit the (shot) with my hand and I thought it went in, but I saw it behind me so I had to get back. Then Allison came in and she saved the day. If it wasn’t for her that would be in the net.”
Lehoisky later had to dive out to cover another shot and collided with an oncoming player. She played with a slight limp after that.
“I knew I couldn’t stop,” she said. “I had to keep going.”
The Cards’ defense has turned in nine shutouts this season, including three of the past four games.
“Our defense is incredible,” Godfrey said. “I trust them 100 percent, especially (Kate Jackson) in the back, I trust her with my life. Faith, it’s her first year in goal, and she’s been doing great.”
The Cardinals will get their bus trip next weekend for the state final four. They play Parishville-Hopkinton next Saturday at 10 a.m. in the state semifinal at Homer High School. The Class D state title game is the following morning at Tompkins Cortland Community College.