CORTLAND — Playing in its first-ever final four, the Northern Adirondack girls’ soccer team proved it belonged on the big stage.
Holland just proved to be slightly better on Saturday.
Olivia Schmidt headed in a corner kick toward the end of the first sudden victory overtime period to break a 1-all tie and give the Dutchmen a 2-1 win in the NYSPHSAA Class C semifinals at Cortland High School.
That goal capped a hard-fought game between both squads that saw Holland go up in the first two minutes before the Bobcats clamped down on defense and got a beautiful goal from sophomore Taylor Durnin to even the score in the second half.
Holland (18-1-1), the state’s second-ranked team, will play Section I’s Haldane today in the championship game at SUNY Cortland.
Northern Adirondack (15-4-2) will head into the offseason after finishing up a banner year for the program that saw the fourth-ranked Bobcats win their first Section VII title since 2007 and reach new levels in state competition.
“We all played our hearts out (Saturday), and there are no regrets,” Northern Adirondack forward Elle Warick said. “It was such an incredible journey, and I’m so glad we made it here.”
The Bobcats appeared to let the big stage overwhelm them early. Holland, the Section VI champion, earned a corner kick a minute into the game, and Schmidt took advantage of a scrum in front of the net after an initial save by Northern Adirondack goalkeeper Anna Lashway.
“We were kind of shell-shocked,” Lashway said. “We didn’t know what to expect. So we kind of let up a little.”
But the jitters did go away, and Lashway and her ‘Diamond D’ defense in front of her — Jillian Scott, Maegan Brunelle, Durnin and Boulrice — made sure the game remained close. Lashway, who switched from defense to goalkeeper this season, finished with nine saves — seven in the first half — and made several diving grabs on dangerous passes in front of her goal that prevented prime scoring chances.
“Anna has been playing outstanding,” Northern Adirondack coach Sharon Relation said. “She stepped in when we didn’t have our returning goalie … and like I keep telling her, ‘It’s not the size of the body, it’s the size of the heart,’ and she proves that.”
Scott came through on several critical clears in front of the net. After Lashway deflected a pass with 12 minutes left in the first half, the ball bobbled away and looked destined to cross the plane before Scott booted it away.
The Bobcats’ defense thwarted numerous corner kicks by Holland — the Dutchmen took 11 in the game.
“My defense, I can’t explain in a single world,” said Lashway, a former ‘Diamond D’ member who wears a Spider-Man pinny in games. “They are our family, they are our backbone. Without them we wouldn’t have been able to make it this far.”
Durnin backed up the strong defensive effort when she got the ball outside the Holland box with 16:15 left in regulation.
With her coaches urging her to shoot from the sideline, the sophomore skied a long-distance beauty from 21 yards out that sailed over a leaping Haley Hymers.
“We do a shooting drill in warm-ups that’s just like that, where you take a touch and then you shoot,” Durnin said. “And it was right in the same spot, and I usually make it in warm-ups, and I just made it that time.”
That 1-all score would stand through two 10-minute overtime periods and much of the first sudden victory period. But Holland’s corner kicks — taken every time by Holland defenseman and captain Chelsea Grupp — eventually caught up with NAC.
Grupp — who also had a standout game in the back — sent another well-placed pass from the corner with less than two minutes left in the stanza. Schmidt, Section VI’s leading scorer, capitalized, setting off a celebration by the Dutchmen.
“It was a good goal, and there was nothing we could do to stop that one,” Warick said.
The Dutchmen finished with an 18-7 advantage in shots on goal.
Warick, a senior who led Northern Adirondack in scoring, said she wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything.
“It gives a lot of hope for our future teams coming up that this is possible for our school,” Warick said. “We’re capable of making it to states.”
“It’s a huge accomplishment for us because our school has never made it this far and I think we’re all very proud of each other,” Boulrice said.
NOTES: Relation emphasized the impact her assistant coaches had on the team’s success. Her coaching staff is made up of three of her former players – Carol Lyons, Jessica Barnhart and Gena Rosenbaum.
“The team couldn’t have done it without them,” Relation said.
Holland 2, Northern Adirondack 1
(Sudden victory OT)
NAC 0 1 0 0 0 — 1
Holland 1 0 0 0 1 — 2
First half- 1, H, Schmidt, 1:13.
Second half- 2, NAC, Durnin, 23:45.
First sudden victory period- 3, H, Schmidt (Grupp).
Shots: Holland 18, NAC 7.
Saves: Lashway, NAC, 9. Hymers, H, 4.