Corning head coach Julie Pierce said after her team’s sectional semifinal victory against Horseheads that she wasn’t ready for this season to be over. Clearly, her players feel the same way.
After losing twice to Elmira during the regular season, the second-seeded Hawks posted a 3-1 victory over the Express on Friday night in the Section 4 Class AA girls soccer championship game at Waverly Memorial Stadium.
Audrey Howard broke a 1-1 tie with seven minutes, 17 seconds left in the first half and Logan Olmstead added an insurance goal with 25:29 left in the game to help the Hawks win their first Section 4 title since beating Elmira in overtime in the 2012 final.
“We worked together and we played as one with one heart and that’s all we needed,” said Corning senior Hailey Bicknell, who scored the game’s first goal.
“It is the best feeling in the world. We compete with Elmira every single time. They’re one of our biggest rivals. And to beat them, it just feels amazing. We worked so hard and all that hard work is paying off.”
Top-seeded Elmira finished with an 11-4-1 record and came up short in its bid for a third consecutive sectional championship.
Corning (11-5) will play again Nov. 7 at Johnson City High School in a state quarterfinal against the winner of the regional semifinal between Section 9 champion Monroe-Woodbury and the Section 1 champion, which will be either John Jay-East Fishkill or North Rockland.
As her players let out a loud cheer in the background following the win, Pierce remarked on what a great sound that was to hear.
“They’re a really, really, really good group of human beings,” Pierce said of her team. “They’re kind. They care about each other. I couldn’t tell you any one player who shined because I thought they all did tonight. Everybody came out and did their job.”
The Hawks lost 6-0 to Elmira in the teams’ first regular-season meeting this year, then dropped a much closer rematch, 3-2.
Elmira had the better of play over the first 10 minutes of Friday’s third meeting, but later in the half the Niagara University-bound Bicknell came up with the type of play that has defined her career. After the Elmira goalkeeper was unable to secure the ball, Bicknell tracked it down and circled away from trouble to get herself a clear look from about 25 yards out. She blasted home a shot into the upper right corner with 16:47 remaining in the first half.
The Express, playing for the first time since falling to Chenango Forks in the Southern Tier Athletic Conference semifinals on Oct. 17, drew even when Jalasia Demember chipped in a perfect cross from Kendra Oldroyd with 9:53 left in the half.
Howard continued the game’s up-tempo pace with her goal less than three minutes later off an assist from Riley Olmstead.
“Tonight was a night where they not only executed what our game plan was, but they battled,” Pierce said of her team. “They laid it all out there. What more can you ask from a group of high-schoolers. They played well. They were gritty. They played with their heart. It was hard with the crowd. A couple of times they got a little bit lost in that noise and at halftime we talked about drowning out the noise. And the only way to quiet somebody is to play well.”
Logan Olmstead’s hard blast into the upper left corner extended the advantage to 3-1. Elmira responded with quality scoring chances over the final 20 minutes but was denied each time.
“We said at halftime that we couldn’t hunker,” Pierce said. “I said, ‘Girls, you can not sit on your heels.’ Two years ago (in the sectional final) we had a 2-0 lead against Elmira at halftime and we lost 3-2. Four or five of those players are on this team and I said, ‘Girls, you have to remember that moment because I sure haven’t forgotten it.’ They just looked around and a couple of girls said something. … I felt like we went after that and got that third goal.”
On Twitter: @SGAndrewLegare