Less than seven miles separate two of Section 9’s top girls soccer teams.
On Thursday, the squads from Red Hook and Rhinebeck, who have combined for 28 wins and one loss this season, will finally meet with a championship hanging in the balance.
After winning semifinal contests Monday, the Raiders and Hawks will clash for the Mid-Hudson Athletic League crown 5 p.m. Thursday at Franklin D. Roosevelt High School in Hyde Park.
For Red Hook, the 5-1 victory over Wallkill continued a perfect season, and Isabelle LaBarbera scored all five goals in the team’s 15th victory.
Red Hook has won the title seven times, but this will be its first trip to the final since 2012. The team had fallen to Wallkill the previous two years in the semifinals.
“We’ve had heartbreaking losses to Wallkill, so it’s been a long time coming for this team,” Red Hook coach Jason Pavlich said. “Our girls were determined to get it done.”
Rhinebeck will be making its first MHAL finals appearance.
“It’s a big confidence boost for us, but we know it’s only going to get harder from here,” Rhinebeck coach Matt Grande said. “The road to sectionals is always hard.”
LaBarbera had a hat trick before halftime against Wallkill, scoring her third goal on a penalty kick in the 35th minute.
“She deserves every bit of this,” Pavlich said of the midfielder. “She had 19 goals last year, and she really hit the weight room and improved her skills. She has worked extremely hard and she’s reaping the dividends.”
The senior has 41 goals this season and, last Thursday, broke the single-season program record, surpassing the total of 34 that Marin McDermott set in 2007.
“She’s a hard player to stop,” Pavlich said. “I don’t think there’s a coach in the area who wouldn’t want her on their team. We have other excellent players and we have to be careful to be too reliant on Isabelle. But this was her time to shine.”
Alexa Franceschi had two assists, Claire Dyal added an assist, and Megan Jankowiak made four saves for the Raiders.
Rhinebeck fought its way to the final with a 1-0 victory over Spackenkill. Stephanie Cassens scored unassisted in the 26th minute.
Dani Amidon had eight saves for the Hawks (13-1), whose loss this season came against Spackenkill two weeks ago. The Spartans were the two-time defending MHAL champions, and also had beaten Rhinebeck in the Section 9 Class B final last year.
“Our center backs Caroline Voorhis and Alex Dunn led the defense and kept pushing the ball out,” Grande said. “Spackenkill dominated possession most of the way, but we just found a way to score.”
Stephen Haynes: firstname.lastname@example.org, 845-437-4826, Twitter: @StephenHaynes4