STILLWATER – After being knocked out in the opening round of the 2012 Section II Class C girls soccer tournament the Canajoharie Lady Cougars have been on a mission.
Wednesday night, the Lady Cougars achieved one of their goals for the season as they rolled past Waterford-Halfmoon 3-0 to do what no other Canajoharie girls soccer team had done – win a Section II girls soccer championship.
“This was our first appearance in the finals, but 35 years ago some of these girls moms played in the semifinals,” Canajoharie coach Ellee Fichthorn said. “We were very excited to be here. The kids have worked hard since they were about 3 years old. I have watched them grow up and it is great to see them do this. I am very proud of them.”
In the opening minutes of the game, both teams looked to gain control of the midfield but it was the Lady Cougars who developed enough of an attack to earn a corner kick just under 10 minutes in.
Ariannah Logan put the ball in play from the right corner, lifting her kick to the top of the box where Jenelle Dillenbeck headed the ball toward goal. Morgan Koelbl flicked the ball off her head and into the goal for a 1-0 lead with 30:18 left in the opening half.
Ashley Lefebvre gave the Lady Fordians their best scoring opportunity in the first half when she broke behind the Canajoharie defense and challenged Lady Cougars’ goalkeeper Lauren Balfe one-on-one. Lefebvre’s shot sailed wide of it mark to keep the score at 1-0 at halftime.
“We were on high alert with our nerves [in the first half],” Fichthorn said. “After the first goal some of the girls thought ‘Are we on defense now?’ But we play an attacking game, so we went back out and played our game. We settled down and played a beautiful second half.”
The Lady Cougars were all business in the second half taking control from the kick off and putting a pair of quality attempts on goal that Waterford goalkeeper Courtney Gardner turned away.
With 27:51 left in the match, the Lady Cougars put a second tally on the board, again off a corner kick.
Hannah Bowerman put a long kick to the far side of the penalty area that Dillenbeck drove into the opposite side netting for a 2-0 advantage.
Canajoharie kept the offensive pressure on but had to withstand a strong counterattack in the closing minutes.
Lefebvre again broke through but was cut off by reserve goalkeeper Andrea Dingman before she could get her shot off.
The Lady Cougars closed out the scoring with 13-seconds left on the clock when Jordyn Logan finished a pass from Ariannah Logan to cap off the 3-0 victory.
For the match, Canajoharie outshot Waterford 15-5 and held a 9-2 edge in corner kicks.
Balfe and Dingman were active away from their line cutting down passes and combined for five saves. Gardner also was active away from the goalmouth and finished with 10 saves.
Canajoharie advances to play Section VII champion Northern Adirondack on Saturday at 3 p.m. at Plattsburgh High School.
Northern Adirondack advanced to regionals with a 3-2 victory over Section X champion Brushton-Moira Wednesday.
“I am so proud of my team for all of the hard work they have put into every practice and game for the last several years,” Fichthorn said. “Their hard work, dedication, and love for soccer has made it a pleasure to coach them.”