|THE FINAL WORD: ANOTHER HEARTBREAKER ON THE SOCCER PITCH, TIOGA VOLLEYBALL, AND THE FIRST FOOTBALL PICK OF THE WEEKEND (2017-11-02)
For the second time in five nights, the Athens soccer community suffered a heart-wrenching defeat in the District 4 playoffs, this time a 1-0 loss by the boys in the Class AAA finals.
Mifflinburg, the team Athens beat 2-1 last year to win its first-ever district title, controlled the possession and kept the ball in Athens’ end of the field for the majority of the game.
In the first half, the Wildcat defense did a great job of keeping Mifflinburg outside the 18, and limited the long-range shots.
Even Miff’s best scoring chance was from outside the 18, but it came with keeper Braden Priester well out of the net. A shot from about 30 yards out appeared headed into the goal, but sophomore defender David Scheftic made an incredible leaping play to head the ball over the crossbar.
Mifflinburg picked up its pressure on the Athens net in the second half, and started to manufacture shots from within the box.
The Athens defense was up to the challenge, particularly Priester, who played the best game I’ve seen him play. He was aggressive, coming out of the net to clear the ball on several occasions, and played with confidence.
Mifflinburg’s game-winning goal came after 74-plus minutes of scoreless action, at the end of a 4-plus minute stretch in which the ball was in the box perilously close to the goal line on several occasions. Following an Athens attempt to clear, Elijah Yoder sent a ball back into the box, and with Priester making a move toward the ball, Miff’s Gabe DeFacis made a nice play on the ball re-directing it with the side of his foot into the net for the game’s only goal.
After the game, Lezak said a tougher non-league schedule played a part in the Wildcats returning to the Class AAA finals. For his sake, I hope the NTL tweaks its schedule somehow to give the bigger programs in the league, like Athens and Wellsboro a chance to schedule more games against bigger schools.
One possibility for Athens would be to play Sayre just once, and use that other schedule spot for a game against a bigger program. It would also give Sayre, which has narrowly missed districts in each of the last two years, to schedule a more competitive game.
And, playing once a year would make the games a bit more special.
Looking ahead, the Wildcats will have to replace many key seniors, foremost Ethan Lane, Gavin Stein, and Braden Priester, but they have a strong group returning, and Lezak has a proven track record of winning. I have little doubt, Athens will be in the NTL and District 4 title hunts again next year.
The Tioga volleyball team breezed into the Section IV, Class C semifinals with a sweep of Watkins Glen Tuesday night.
The Lady Tigers were clicking on all cylinders. Seniors Martha and Anna Schumacher, Charli Hall, and Kurstan Martin were pounding the ball, and the team as a whole was strong on the service line.
Last year, the final four had a combined record of 70-3, with Tioga and Bainbridge-Guilford entering the fray undefeated.Trumansburg had just one loss, and Watkins Glen had two — both to Tioga.
This year, Tioga and Trumansburg are undefeated, while Bainbridge-Guilford is the top seed in Class D, and Thomas A. Edison and Watkins Glen are both 12-6.
The Lady Tigers own a pair of sweeps against Edison and Watkins Glen this season, and swept Trumansburg in pool play en route to a title at the Tioga Tournament in mid-September.
Tioga’s fifth Section IV title is theirs to lose. They are the clear-cut favorites, but I would think the majority of these seniors, who have had so much success during their careers, have bigger goals in mind.
Week 11 of the high school football season begins tonight with Waverly, which is dropping back into Class C next season, hosting Class AA Ithaca.
Waverly's season comes to an end tonight. The question is: is this weekend the end of the 2017 football season in the Valley? I will let you know what I think Friday.
As for tonight, Waverly hosts an Ithaca team that is 0-9, and riding a 10-game losing streak, albeit against Class A and AA foes.
Prediction: The Wolverines had little success against the top teams in Class B this season, so it's hard to fathom they can beat a Class AA team, even one that has been outscored by an average of 49.6 to 11.2. The Little Red scored 69 of its 101 points this season in two games against Johnson City and Horseheads — both 3-6, so I think they can find the end zone. I have to believe Ithaca will be more athletic than Waverly, but I'm flying blind on this pick. .... ITHACA 34, WAVERLY 24.
The Final Word returns Monday.
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