Once again, it was Riley to the Blue Devils’ rescue.
Junior forward Riley Peterson’s crazy-angle goal with 15:36 remaining Tuesday sent Chenango Forks’ girls into the quarterfinal round of Class B state soccer playoffs with a 1-0 victory over Bronxville.
As she did in Saturday’s Section 4 title game, Peterson struck to decide a 1-0 outcome in which the Blue Devils had a decided advantage, this time evidenced by a 21-6 difference in shots over their Westchester County foe at Johnson City High School.
The 20-0 Blue Devils will oppose Section 9 champion Spackenkill (Dutchess County) Friday at Middletown High School. Starting time is to be determined.
The goal was set in motion by freshman Emma Bough, who finessed a ball ahead for Peterson to handle low on the right wing. With Bronxville’s goalkeeper venturing away from the net, Peterson offered up a rolling shot that made its way slowly across the goal mouth and somehow inside the far post.
“Emma Bough gave me a perfect ball and I saw the keeper coming out. I saw an open opportunity and I took it,” said Peterson, as if describing a garden-variety strike in a midseason runaway.
Forks coach Chris Walsh knows better.
“It was an impossible angle. It’s textbook, far post — I don’t know how she did it,” he said. “It was beautiful, it was unbelievable. I’ve never seen a shot like that, that critical in a game, it was crazy.”
Three days before, Peterson struck with 16 minutes remaining in a 1-0 victory over Waverly, which got off six shots to the winners’ 36.
Forks goalkeeper Hannah Fuller, though not particularly taxed by Section 1’s champions, deftly directed a defensive cast that saw to it quality opportunities would be minimal. On the other end, Forks shooters kept keeper Maddie Coyne on her toes— though finishing was hardly a Blue Devils strong suit on this unseasonably comfortable evening.
That nearly 65 1-2 minutes elapsed without a goal by the host section was surprising given abundant chances created.
Best of the bunch came five or so minutes before the goal, when sophomore Lexi Bartlow set and cranked a whistler from thirty-couple yards that Coyne elevated to tip over the crossbar— and Coyne responded coolly to a spot of bother on the ensuing corner-kick sequence.
Bronxville, too, was coming off a 1-0 escape in its sectional title game — that one in a couple overtime sessions — and so was understandably undeterred by the tense atmosphere of a state-playoff opener devoid of a goal so deep into play.
But to open the second half, and then in the minutes leading to the goal, the Blue Devils noticeably dialed up the pressure.
“This team has surprised me so many times this year where, we have an opponent where we should really dominate and put a lot of numbers on the board, and we don’t. Then the next game we play a tough opponent and we play such good soccer,” Walsh said.
“They just played with a lot of heart tonight and in high school, I think that’s the difference a lot of times, is how much heart you have, getting to the ball first and making those runs and just giving it all you’ve got. And obviously that came out tonight in my team.”
The first half concluded with Forks on top of a 5-1 shot differential and with next-to-no serious scoring threats by either side.
Forks’ Brooke Maietta established the second-half tone by lofting one from near the right corner to the near post 18 seconds in, signaling the Devils’ shift into get-after-it mode. Balls sent near Bronxville’s goal thereafter drifted high or wide— opportunities squandered but banked in the memory. Another of those was off the shoe of Maietta, who lifted one over the crossbar from a trying right-wing angle.
But the Gal of the Hour delivered, again, and the Blue Devils played cerebrally through the finish.
“It was such a great feeling last year to be the first team ever from Forks to reach the final four and our goal has been to get back to the final four so hopefully we can make it there again,” said Peterson, one of 19 underclassmen on a 21-player Forks roster.
Walsh added: “I’d like to say I wasn’t nervous all day today because we’ve been there, but I was nervous all day and yesterday. It’s on to the next one.”