BY JOHN THEALL Sports writer
REMSEN — They’ve had targets on their backs all season.
Teams have taken aim at knocking off the Remsen girls soccer team all season, but so far, to no avail.
The defending Section III champion Lady Rams soccer team won their first sectional title in the school’s history to cap a 19-2 overall season last year, and they have been rolling right along ever since.
They have cruised to a perfect 16-0 overall record on the season, were awarded the No. 1 seed in the Section III Class D bracket after winning their Center State Conference league title, and have stormed through the first two rounds of their playoffs with a 6-0 score over Oriskany in the quarterfinals and 9-1 rout over McGraw in Tuesday’s semifinal.
They’re toughest challenge lies ahead as they gear up to face third-seeded Poland (16-2) in Saturday’s Class D championship game at Lowville at 8:30 p.m.
"We have really had an impressive season," said Remsen coach Jim Wilder. "At the beginning of the year we came into the season state ranked at No. 1 and it seemed liked everyone was coming at us every time we played. The girls held their ground and handled everything they have seen up to this point," he added.
The Lady Rams aren’t the only team from the school to qualify for the Class D championships, as the fourth-seeded Remsen boys squad advanced to the Section III Class D-2 championship game with a 1-0 semifinal triumph over eighth-seeded Faith Heritage at Sauquoit Valley High School on Wednesday.
Remsen, 9-7, will take on No. 2 seeded Old Forge, 11-5-1 overall, on Saturday at Lowville at 5:30 p.m.
Old Forge defeated Brookfield 2-0 in their semifinal game on Wednesday.
During their semifinal game, Remsen junior Kyle Gargas blasted in the lone goal of the contest off an assist from sophomore teammate Garrett Shufelt, while goalies Adam McDonald made five saves and Brenon Brower added two saves in net behind a solid defensive effort by the Rams.
The squad also has a 3-1 victory over Blessed Virgin Mary during their postseason run.
The Rams are coached by Craig Vary.
Poland advanced to the girls title game with a 4-0 dismantling of No. 2 seed Cincinnatus.
Poland’s only losses have come at the hands of Remsen.
The Lady Rams downed their foes 5-1 at Poland in the middle of September, and then held them off again 3-1 at their house on Sept. 29.
Wilder said that it will be tough to defeat them for the third time in one season.
"Poland is tough. They’re always tough. It’s a big soccer town, they’re very well coached and they have a ton of talent on their team. It should be a very good game," he said. "I’m hoping that the third time is the charm for us," Wilder added.
Last season, several members of the girls soccer team competed and won the Class D title at the Section III Cross Country meet at Vernon-Verona-Sherrill High School, and then hoped on a bus, drove to Cortland and went on to defeat Copenhagen for their second league title of the day.
The feat is almost too unreal to believe a year later for Wilder.
"They are extremely well-conditioned athletes. They run all the time and they are just athletes, plain and simple," he said.
This year, they will be doing the same thing as 10 of the 22 athletes on the team will compete in the Section III Cross Country championships in the afternoon and then travel to Lowville to face Poland that night.
"It will be no problem for them. I don’t think its a big deal for them, and I don’t see it as a serious concern," Wilder said.
Family ties is something that Wilder said has been one of the team’s successes this season and plays big with their "chemistry and togetherness with one another."
Leading scorer Erin O’Connor, 38 goals and 16 assists, is twin sisters with Ashley O’Connor, nine goals and 10 assists, while Theresa Roberts, Sienna Roberts, and Maria Roberts are all sisters, assistant coach Rick Waterbury is the father of sophomore Brittany Waterbury, and Cortney Taylor is cousins with the O’Connors.
Erin O’Connor scored her 100th career goal in the early part of this season, as freshmen Joleen Marfone has tallied 16 goals and seven assists, and senior Jessica Taylor has 11 goals and 11 assists this season.
Goalkeeper sophomore Megan Will has recorded nine shutouts on the season and has allowed only eight goals against all year behind a very active defense led by junior sweeper Melanie Carlson, sophomore stopper Brittany Waterbury, sophomore Emily Devenezia, and senior Alexis Rieben.
"We have been led by our good attackers, very strong defense and team chemistry. We really have the whole package out there and it has been a really enjoyable season coaching these girls," said Wilder.
"We’re just hoping for one more win."