For the second year in a row, the Elmira girls soccer team’s bid for a Southern Tier Athletic Conference championship ended at the hands of Oneonta at Elmira Free Academy’s Marty Harrigan Field.
Mariah Ruff scored the lone goal off a corner kick from Taryn More under eight minutes into play as the Yellowjackets earned a 1-0 victory in Friday afternoon’s championship game. Last year Oneonta downed the Express in the semifinals, 2-1, in overtime.
In addition to falling short in its bid for the first STAC girls soccer title in district history, the Express suffered its first loss following a 15-0 start.
“I can’t fault the effort. I thought we were pretty good today,” Elmira coach Zach Sarno said. “We just couldn’t catch a break to get it in the net. It happens sometimes. You can’t be disappointed. We’re 15-1 for a reason and even though we didn’t get the result today, we showed why.”
The STAC title was the third in a row for Oneonta (13-2-1), which was without injured all-state players Madison Miller and Brieanna Baker.
“I’m happy for my kids for sure, but I’m disappointed for Zach and the girls,” said Oneonta coach Jerry Mackey.
The Yellowjackets, who were the Class B state runners-up last year, withstood 14 shots and seven corner kicks from Elmira. Goalkeeper Maddie Grau made six saves for the shutout.
“I heard some fans yelling late in the second half, ‘They’re getting tired,’ ” Mackey said. “Well, yeah, we were. We had three subs and our core group didn’t come off. They played all 80 minutes.
“Zach’s forwards can put such tremendous pressure on you that even when it’s down on the other end, you always feel like you’re one missed angle away from them really causing trouble.”
The Express came in knowing Oneonta would be dangerous on set pieces, particularly long throw-ins. It was a perfect corner kick that delivered the goal, with More lofting a strike to Ruff that she buried in the net.
Elmira came back and dominated possession time for the remaining 70 minutes, with much of the pressure coming from forwards Sierra Barr and Tianna Hatch-Dailey. However, Oneonta collapsed quickly when the ball got in the box to limit the number of clean looks at the net for Elmira.
A bicycle kick from Hatch-Dailey off a Barr pass went high and wide right in the second half. Among Barr’s best chances was a hard shot targeted for the upper right of the net that Grau deflected out of bounds. Elmira had other shots go wide, including one off a corner kick early in the game that missed by about a foot.
“We had balls laying in front of the goal, we had multiple corners, multiple looks at the goal, shots blocked. You name it,” Sarno said. “They had a lot of numbers back in the box and blocking shots, which was smart. They had a 1-0 lead.”
Oneonta is the No. 2 seed for the Section 4 Class B tournament and will host Waverly at 3:30 p.m. Friday.
Top-seeded Elmira will play in another title game Nov. 1 or 2 against the winner of the Class AA semifinal between Horseheads and Corning. Corning beat the Express 2-1 in overtime in last year’s Class AA final.
“We just talked over there. I said, ‘Winning a STAC title is great, but we want an elusive sectional title,’ ” Sarno said. “That will be our next goal, to get healthy and get ready for that.”