PLATTSBURGH — There is a first time for everything.
The Bobcats (15-3-2) defeated Section II Canajoharie 3-1 Saturday and will head to their first ever NYSPHSAA Class C final four appearance.
“I think every single one of these kids came to play (Saturday),” Northern Adirondack coach Sharon Relation said. “They just jelled.”
The Bobcats were able to take advantage of their speed up top, as well as play a physical defensive game to knock off a technically sound Cougar team.
“Hats off to Canajoharie. They are a very talented team and they came to play,” Relation said. “But our girls came out with a mission.”
Northern Adirondack was the first on the board, as Rachel Venne capitalized off a thru ball from Elle Warick at the 25:10 mark of the first half. Venne was able to beat a Canajoharie defender to the ball, and placed a shot over goalie Lauren Balfe’s head.
“We didn’t know much about this team, but me and Elle have been a 1-2 punch all year,” Venne said.
The Cougars almost tied the match at one, but Bobcats keeper Anna Lashway made a terrific diving breakaway stop with 10 seconds left until halftime.
At the end of the first half, Canajoharie led Northern Adirondack 7-5 in shots on goal and was also given four corner kick opportunities, but was unable to capitalize off any.
“We were pretty confident at halftime, talking about ways we could beat them,” Venne said. “If we could lift balls over their heads we could get there, but everyone, the offense and defense played awesome.”
At the start of the second half, the Cougars were able to put in the 1-1 equalizer.
Canajoharie was given a free kick about 35 yards out, which Cougar defenseman Hannah Bowerman launched over everyone’s head, including Lashway, and into the net.
However, the celebration didn’t last long for the Cougars.
One minute, 10 seconds later, Venne played a beautiful pass to Warick who finished her shot just over Balfe’s head once again to regain the lead.
“After they scored that goal we all got together toward Anna and regrouped,” Venne said. “We got our confidence back and came out there twice as hard.”
It seemed as though once Warick put in Northern Adirondack’s second goal the game was lost for Canajoharie.
“When we got our goal we were so excited,” Cougars coach Ellee Fichthorn said. “But then NAC scored and I think that took the wind out of our sails and we became deflated from then on.”
At the 18 minute mark, the Bobcats got on the board one more time to solidify the win.
This time it was Maegan Brunelle who played a ball over the top of the Canajoharie defense. The Cougars’ defense was no match for Venne’s speed, as she ran past the defenders and beat Balfe one-on-one for her second goal of the game.
“Our touches weren’t the best we had all year. The other team fought us to every ball,” Fichthorn said. “We couldn’t get to our second touch. They’re a physical team and they ran through every ball.”
Heading into this matchup, not many would have chosen the Bobcats as victors, but Relation knew her team would play tough enough to get the job done.
“(I told them) no regrets girls, just leave it all out on the field. At this level it’s anybody’s game,” Relation said. “Perseverance and resiliency was awesome to watch. Our team is a scrappy team. I just feel like they do have talent and do belong here, and they handled the pressure well.”
As for Fichthorn, she admitted it wasn’t her teams best performance, but was proud of what they had shown all year.
“I’m proud of our season and what they’ve done,” Fichthorn said. “I’m very proud of these girls, and how they worked throughout the season.”
With the win, Northern Adirondack will head to their first final four appearance in their program’s history.
“It’s a great school accomplishment,” Venne said. “Everybody is pretty excited as a team.”
The Bobcats will head to Cortland and face Section II’s Holland Saturday, Nov. 16. The winner will play in the NYSPHSA Class C championship game on Nov. 17.
Northern Adirondack 3, Canajoharie 1
Canajoharie 0 1 — 1
Northern Adirondack 1 2 — 3
First Half: 1, NAC, Venne (Warick) 25:10.
Second Half: 1, Can, Bowerman 7:44. 2, NAC, Warick (Venne) 8:54. 3, NAC, Venne (Brunelle) 18:08.
Shots: Canajoharie 12. Northern Adirondack 9.
Saves: Can, Balfe, 8. NAC, Lashway, 10.