Jamesville-DeWitt 1, Spencerport 2. That is what the scoreboard read following the New York High School State Championship for Varsity Girls Soccer. The loss makes it back-to-back seasons of heartbreak for the Red Rams after making it to the state title game. However, that one game on Sunday, Sept. 13, as much as a devastating loss as it was, does not at all define the girls’ accomplishments this fall sports season.
The team ended the season with a record of 20-3. They went undefeated in their division and were league champs. They beat teams who were ranked better than them in the state. They brought home hardware from both sectionals and regionals. And, most importantly, they came together as team and made the J-D community proud. All of this from a team who was given low expectations by most in the beginning of the season. “There was a lot of doubt about our team in the beginning of the season. People didn’t think we’d even be that good and that there was no way we could live up to the legacy the team last year left,” says junior striker Maddy Spina, “we proved all the haters wrong.”
The team shocked the section after an unexpected hot start. “We got the first win and just kept on rolling from there,” says sophomore Ana Parks. The team learned the true power of their capabilities as the season progressed, and their success on the field ended up far surpassing the team’s expectations prior to the season’s start. “At the beginning of the season I don’t think anyone, including ourselves, thought that we would make it as far as we did,” says junior defender Ailish McDevitt, “but we hoped that we would and that dream of States pushed us as a team to do better.”
The team’s fire was never snuffed out, even throughout the playoffs. When compared to the regular season games, the playoffs are usually more rigorous, and have more intense settings and fiercer levels of competition. However, for the Red Rams it was different since they had played tough schools all season long. Dominate teams like Baldwinsville, East Syracuse-Minoa, Fayetteville-Manlius, and West Genesee were some of the competition J-D faced throughout the regular season, so the transition to the postseason was much smoother than it is for most teams. “We faced hard competition the whole season just in our own league...we went into the playoffs well prepared,” says Head Coach Hayley Nies. “A lot rides on playoff games. It’s either play your best and win or lose and go home.” says junior midfielder Lainey Foti who scored J-D’s only goal in the state title game. And there definitely was a ton of weight on the girls’ shoulders; their regular season glory and the name on the front of their jerseys put a target on their back. “We handled the pressure and only got better,” says Spina. The J-D girls never backed down from their opponents and each playoff game was hard-won. In regionals they faced Mohonasen in what turned out to be a great game with the Red Rams on top 5-4. In the quarter finals J-D dominated, shutting out Massena 4-0. Semi finals against Garden City ended with J-D on top again 2-0, back to back shut outs in playoffs. All of that work throughout the season and all the progress together as a team led to one thing; the State championship.
The title game started in J-D’s favor when Foti scored the first goal of the game and put the Red Rams on the board 1-0. But Spencerport held J-D scoreless after that and came back with two goals of their own, putting the Rangers up 2-1 and ultimately that was the final score of the championship game. “It was really heartbreaking to lose the championship game, but we were really proud how we performed throughout the season,” says Foti, “If you compare our team in August to what it ended up being in November, the improvement is tremendous.”
The real secret for success for the girls soccer team was the chemistry. “I loved all my teammates. We all made such close friendships and there wasn’t a whole lot of drama,” says McDevitt, “We really came together and had such a strong chemistry, and that’s what helped us be as successful as we were on the field.”
Another key to success was the seniors, according to Coach Nies. The unavoidable departure of the seniors of the team will be another sad loss to Lady Rams soccer. This season, every senior on the squad was in the starting line up. In their final high school soccer season, they got to be a part of a dominating team who left their marks on the fields of J-DHS. “The seniors helped the team on and off the field. They organized and led the team. I will miss their positive energy and skills on the team,” says Foti. Seniors Alex Catanzarite, Alex Epifani and Sophia Dimkopoulos have all been on the team since they were freshmen four years ago. Senior Angela Bussone has be on it for three years. “All of the seniors had been to States before and knew what it took to get there. They are all great players and girls,” says Coach Nies.
The girls are already looking toward the 2017 soccer season. After graduating five of the 19, the team will have many fresh faces on the roster to aid the returners. “We have a great core of girls coming back,” says Coach Nise, “We pulled up a couple of JV players up for sectionals, so they got some experience (on the varsity team). It’s a strong group of players. I’m excited.”