CORTLAND — After losing 12 seniors to graduate school, Shenendehova girls’ soccer coach Holly Nirsberger wasn’t sure what to expect going forward this season.
When it ended on a Sunday, it was one of the best seasons for the Plainsmen in recent history.
Shenandoahova made it to the final day of the season, losing 3-0 to Masapequa in the state Class AA championship game in SUNY Cortland on Sunday.
“We would rank this as a huge success. It’s been 17 years since we made the last four,” Nirsberger said. “We graduated 12 seniors last year, so it’s clearly a green start to the start of the season. The journey we’ve gone and the progress we’ve made in a short amount of time has been tremendous.”
This was Shendehowa’s first visit to the state semi-finals since winning the 2004 Class AA state crown.
While the Plainsmen were making their first trip in 17 years, Massapequa State has been a mainstay in the semi-finals.
With Sunday’s win, the Chiefs have won seven state titles since adding Class AA in 2003.
“They are a good team. They are a very good team,” Nirsberger said.
Thalia Morisi, who was named Massapequa’s Most Outstanding Player, scored twice for Masapequa, and was the second goal from Gianna Sevella.
Massapequa entered the title game with a 2-1 win over Section XI champions Smithtown West in the state quarterfinals and a 3-0 win over Section V champion Penfield in Saturday’s semifinal round.
Shenendhova topped Section III champions Fayetteville-Manlius, 2-1, in last weekend’s state quarterfinals and beat Section I champions Arlington 2-0 in Saturday’s semifinals. Taylor Jardenas and Emily Baums scored for Shenandoah in their win over Arlington. Jardenais was named Schendehova’s Most Outstanding Player after the game.
From the start of Sunday’s competition, Masapequa was on the offensive, beating Shenendehova 18–1 in the first half.
Despite the attack, the plainsmen managed to keep the Chiefs off the board for the first 32 minutes of the game.
“I was really proud of my defense. Not just the last five, but everyone’s,” Nursberger said. “They’ve got five or six very talented, skilled, clever players—that we knew about—but how long can you weather that storm before breaking a loose one.”
Masapequa finally broke with 7:36 in the first half when Morisi scored the first goal of the game with an assist from Mia Baldinger after a scuffle followed by a corner kick.
The Chiefs struck again only 20 seconds later when Savella scored with an assist from Lia Howard to make it 2-0 with 7:36 left in the first half.
“That second goal was tough,” Nirsberger said. “We didn’t even get a chance to regroup after scoring the first time before scoring again.”
Plainsmen did not do much better after the break as Masapequa had a 15-2 advantage in shots in the second half and finished with a 33-3 lead in shots for the game.
Morisi scored the only goal of the second half with 2:40 to play in the game.
Mary Stork made two saves to post a shutout in goal for the Chiefs.
Eva Pflom made 14 saves for the plainsmen, while Abigail Sheehan made a save.
Pflomm was honored after the game as the top class AA keeper.
“Eva played the game of her life. These guys could shoot from 35-40 yards and they were sneaking in and getting pretty close to her,” Nursberger said. “She is arguably one of the best athletes on the field today and she was, for a reason, the savior of the match.”
Masapequa ended his season 20-0-1 and knocked out opponents, 87-16, this fall. The Chiefs are 33-1-1 over the past two seasons.
“We played a great team and fought to the end,” said Shendehowa senior Georgia Green. “Our season was definitely unforgettable. We pulled it out for as long as we could. I don’t think any of us expected to reach this point, but our team has improved so much since August. We had players for such important roles. We had young players who showed leadership and played such important roles.”
It was the final game for Shenendhowa Seniors’ Mirabel Brunel, Brooke Del Signor, Maria Hart, Ella White, Greene and Sheehan.
“I am proud of our seniors across the board,” Nirsberger said. “It’s been a super, fun group. They’ve brought in lots of laughs and excitement.”
The Plainsmen finished their season with an overall record of 16–4–1.
Halftime: Masapequa takes a 2-0 lead. Shenendehova Scoring: None. Massapequa Scoring: Morrisi 2-0, Savella 1-0, Howard 0-1, Baldinger 0-1. Goalkeepers: Shenendehova, Pflom, 5 saves, Sheehan, 1 save. Massapequa, Stork, saves 2.
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