CICERO — A fierce battle was expected to take place during Saturday’s Section III Class A final at Cicero-North Syracuse High School, with the Rome Free Academy field hockey team making its third straight championship appearance.
The title game turned out to be exactly what everyone predicted it would be as it went into overtime but it did not go into the Lady Knights’ favor as they suffered a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to unbeaten Liverpool.
RFA fell behind about midway through the first half, then fought back to tie the game up with 12 minutes left in the second half, stopped a crucial penalty stroke, but still could not get that final decisive point they needed.
The Lady Warriors nailed the deciding score in with 3:17 remaining before the game would go to penalty strokes when senior Mary Fadden slipped the winning score in just past the goal line that barely got into the net. Junior Emma Lamison was credited with the assist, which was her second in the game.
"It was exciting at first with the thrill that we needed to win, and the last time we played Rome we ended up in a draw, and we knew we needed to step up," Lamison said. "I heard Mary calling for the ball. I saw her up there, so I passed it to her and she had a great shot and it went in. We know this is a team thing and that no one can do this by themselves."
The triumph is Liverpool’s 10th sectional title in the school’s history and it caps off an undefeated 17-0-1 overall Section III season. The Lady Warriors will now battle the winner of the Section V and Section VI state first-round matchup on Saturday at C-NS.
"We’re just relieved right now because this has been our goal the last year," said Liverpool head coach Kim Dominick. "It’s always a tough game with Rome no matter what, but we knew this wasn’t going to be an easy game and any one of us could come out the winning team."
The Lady Knights soon found their backs to the wall when Lamison broke out for a long run to the RFA net as several RFA defenders awaited her but she managed to get a pass off to the open senior co-captain Holly Clark right at the net for the punch in at the 19:23 mark.
Liverpool then looked to have really hurt Rome’s chances when Emily Burns made a shot from near the sidelines for a play at the crowded net for the intended recipient Clark though the ball bounced off a RFA defender’s stick who was right in front of her and into the cage. Clark, however, thought the ball hit off her stick to the net and she started to carry the ball back to the center of the field but no goal was ruled due to RFA knocking it in.
The Lady Knights knew they caught a break on the call and took advantage of it when they drove the ball back downfield then finished it off when senior Kaysie Gregory made a pass to freshman Sam Grunder for the tying score with 12:38 remaining.
With such a crucial misfortune happening to Liverpool, most would think it would be a major let down for the undefeated squad. But it was the exact opposite as the Lady Warriors fought back and claimed three penalty corners on Rome then got a critical penalty stroke with 2:48 remaining.
Dominick elected to have the team’s leading scorer Lamison take the stroke and she fired the ball right to the left of the net, but RFA goalkeeper Danielle Famolaro managed to get in front of it to take it off her chest and grab it for the big save.
RFA head coach Linda Harjung felt the Lady Knights had the advantage heading to overtime especially with the momentum on their side from the stop by Famolaro and the tying score. The senior Famolaro finished with 13 saves.
"That was a huge stop by Danielle," she said. "She’s going to play in college next year but she’s not sure when yet, but that was a great way to end her varsity career with that save.
We played with a lot of heart and that was a big opportunity for us to change the momentum and we did that. I thought we were the better team since they just seem to feed the ball to one player and we worked together with a lot more passes than they did," she added. Despite the loss, Harjung was proud of the performance the Lady Knights put on this season and ending the year with an 11-5-2 record.
"We were kind of the Cinderella team this year," she said. "This team surprised me a little. It’s not like I didn’t think they were going to be good but you never know when things start in August. We surprised a lot of people this year who didn’t think we could make it this far. We’ll be losing four big seniors next year, but I think we can bounce back. We had a couple from junior varsity play here in these two games, and I hope they remember this for next time because they got some big shoes to fill."