The Maple Grove Red Dragons boys soccer team is going where no team in program history has before. The state semifinals.
Today at 5 p.m., the Section VI champion Red Dragons will take on the Section II champions the Maple Hill Wildcats at Middletown High School for a spot in the Class C New York State boys soccer final on Sunday.
“We’ve made it to states like no other Maple Grove team do, but we don’t want to be satisfied with just being at states,”
Maple Grove captain Cam Crist said. “Now we want to win it all. We are not here like ‘yay we made it,’
we want to go all the way and we’re going to do everything we can to finish it off.”
Maple Grove and Maple Hill both had similar paths to states
Maple Grove won its sectional final against Lafayette by two goals and then won its regional matchup against Keshequa in penalty kicks.
Something both sides have experienced as the competition has intensified is lower numbers on the scoreboard.
If either team plans on playing in Sunday’s championship game they will need to capitalize on the few opportunities provided to them.
“These upcoming games and playoff games in general you get way less scoring opportunities,” stated Maple Grove captain and leading scorer Eli Moore.
You’ve just got Maple to capitalize on them.
Make the easy passes, set people up for easy goals and you have got to put them away.”
Up to this point Maple Grove has shown they have the players who are able to rise to the occasion.
Maple Grove head coach Cara Abbey is confident in the lineup she has that they have what it takes to get done what they’ve set out to do.
“You don’t get many opportunities when you’re playing the best of the best,” Abbey stated.
“When we played Lafayette and Keshequa we didn’t have an abundance of opportunities and these boys do a really good job of making the most of the opportunities they do have.
They understand the pressure that’s on them, but they’ve got big shoulders and they can carry that weight.”
A lot of that weight will be on the shoulders of the very front and back of the Red Dragons lineup.
Leading scorer Eli Moore and goalkeeper Andrew Auer will need to have standout
performances this weekend if they hope to take home a state title.
“These veterans, Eli Moore, Andrew Auer,” Abbey mentioned some of the key players crucial to winning.
“Andrew Auer has been a huge presence on the field
During the league he doesn’t teste as much, because the competition isn’t quite as fierce.
This level of competition is revealing what those guys are made out of, the soccer players they really are.”
Undoubtedly, Maple Hill will be one of the best teams the Red Dragons will play.
Abbey and the rest of the coaching staff have done their research and
believe they have put together a gameplan that will have them playing either Section III Cooperstown or Section I Alexander Hamilton on Sunday.
“They’re pretty powerful,” Abbey said about Maple Hill.
“They’ve got a lot of talent from back to front. They’re fast, decent sized and just play good clean soccer with very good fundamentals.”
III-Cooperstown vs. I-Alexander Hamilton
At 2:15 p.m., the Section III champions Cooperstown Hawkeyes will play the Section I champions Alexander Hamilton Raiders.
Cooperstown, like Maple Grove and Maple Hill, did not have to play in a subregional and won its regional game against Section IV Greene Trojans 2-1.
The Hawkeyes offensive leaders are Luca Gardner-Olsen with 15 goals and
eight assists and Liam Spencer with 16 goals and six assists
The Raiders are the only team in the final four who had to play a subregional game.
On the way to the final four, the Raiders knocked off the Section IX champion SS Seward 3-2
and then Section XI champion Pierson/Bridgehampton 2-1.
“We’re going there like it’s war, we’re going there to win this game.
Right now we’re taking it game by game, if we beat Maple Hill me and
the coaching staff are staying up all night long on Saturday in preparation.”