ENDICOTT, NY — Canaan Christian Academy's girls varsity soccer squad put the finishing touches on an unforgettable season this weekend.
The Lady Eagles traveled to Endicott (NY) on Saturday morning to battle Central Baptist for the NY/Penn League tournament championship.
These two evenly-matched teams met twice during the 2012 campaign and each game went right down to the wire. Canaan posted a 2-1 win in Binghamton and then held on for a scoreless tie in Varden.
As expected, the Lady Eagles and Cougars went to-to-toe for the full 80 minutes. Central took a 1-0 lead into intermission, but CCA dominated after the break. Thanks to a pair of second half goals, Coach John Ashley's girls captured the crown via an electrifying 2-1 victory.
"We knew we'd have our hands full with Central," he told TWI Sports.
"It was a defensive battle right from the start. I honestly don't have the words to express how proud I am of these girls. They had a great attitude all season and certainly exceeded my wildest expectations."
With this title tilt triumph, Canaan finished up with an overall record of 16-2-1. The Lady Eagles went 11-0-1 during the campaign, capturing both the NY/Penn's regular season and tournament titles.
On the Pitch
Central went 8-1-1 during the season, trailing only Canaan in the Eastern Conference standings.
The two teams appeared as though they were headed for a scoreless first half, but the Cougars finally broke through with just two minutes left before intermission.
A sophomore striker, Sadowitz scored eight goals during the regular season. So, although she was closely marked by CCA's swarming defense, Michelle wriggled free. She snared a loose ball in front of the net and slipped it past a diving Sami Beals.
This goal gave Central a 1-0 lead at the break.
"The girls were definitely fatigued from their all-out effort in the first half," Coach Ashley said. "But, they weren't discouraged. They were determined to get the equalizer as quickly as possible."
That determination culminated in a highlight reel-worthy goal from Ashlea Swingle.
A senior captain, Swingle is the reigning NY/Penn regular season and tournament Most Valuable Player. Ashlea stole a pass near the midfield stripe, dribbled deep into Central's end and unleashed a rocket.
Cougar keeper Karis Krewson never had a chance and with only 3:21 gone in the second half, the score stood tied at 1-1.
"Ashlea and Grace VanDeLinde have given the last six years to our soccer program," Coach Ashley said. "They're our two senior captains and they've been playing since the seventh grade. I get very emotional when I think about this being their last game."
Page 2 of 2 - Onward to Victory
The tally remained even as time ticked inexorably down toward all zeroes and a possible overtime session.
However, with just over five minutes to go, Canaan created a golden scoring opportunity.
Allyson Wittenbrader gained possession in front of the enemy net and surrounded by Central defenders. Somehow, she managed to poke the ball through to Brenna McLaughlin, who one-timed it to Tori Grimm.
One of the NY/Penn's most feared scorers, Grimm only recently returned from a serious knee injury. She showed no signs of any rust at this crucial moment, though. Tori snared McLaughlin's pass and blasted it home.
Following a brief celebration, all that remained was for Canaan to ride out the last 5:18. The Cougars made several all-out assaults on Beals, but to no avail. The gun finally sounded and pandemonium ensued.
"Our seniors showed amazing leadership all year," an elated Coach Ashley said. "And, all of our girls couldn't wait to play in their first-ever NY/Penn championship game. It was an awesome experience."
After the game, CCA received even more accolades. The local lasses were named winners of the Sportsmanship Trophy, an award voted on by opposing coaches and players.
In addition, a quartet of Lady Eagles were honored with berths on the NY/Penn All Star Team: Grace VanDeLinde, Corinne VanDeLinde, Allyson Wittenbrader and Ashlea Swingle. As noted earlier, Swingle was also named Tournament MVP.
These four girls will travel to Johnson City (NY) on November 4th to play in an exhibition match against the Empire State Christian Athletic League all-stars.
Score by Half...
CCA (16-2-1) 0 2 — 2
CEN (14-3-2) 1 0 — 1