By PAUL GOTHAM
SPENCERPORT, N.Y. — Midway through the second half of Tuesday’s Class A semi-final match, Spencerport head coach Jamie Schneider could be heard from the sideline imploring his team to “keep winning balls; keep winning balls!”
On a night when finishing came at a premium, the Rangers made possession of the ball their ally.
“We created a lot of chances,” Schneider said after Spencerport’s 3-1 win over Brighton. “Unfortunately, we didn’t finish as many as we would have liked. Creating them is half the battle, and they were enough to keep the scoreboard in our favor.”
Alyssa Hackett and Kendall Mesh both sent shots off the crossbar early in the first half. Then Brighton goalkeeper Alice Yawman denied a Corynna Rotoli shot from inside the 18-yard box. There were opportunities that went just wide of frame and another just out of reach.
The mercury didn’t climb much above the freezing mark throughout the match, and one had to wonder if the early frustrations might allow Brighton just enough of a chance to end Spencerport’s reign.
Aleena Solano’s goal with 18:26 remaining in the first half changed that. The freshman redirected a cross from Hackett for her sixth goal of the season and second of the post-season.
Spencerport had the lead and not even a Brighton response less than four minutes later could slow the Rangers on this night.
“I’m most impressed with how they stood up and executed the game,” Schneider said of his squad. “They had intensity and dictated play.”
Rotoli gave the Rangers the lead heading into halftime, and Bre DeHond added another goal early in the second half.
Twelve days earlier, Spencerport (14-0-0) needed overtime to outlast this same Brighton squad in the final game of the regular season. On Tuesday night, extra time was not required.
“Today we were all on the same page,” Hackett said. “We really all came together. We were all in the same head space.”
It was Hackett who played a key role in the Rangers attack. With the Barons looking to clog the middle third of the field in an attempt to slow Spencerport from moving the ball from side to side, the junior forward found room to work on the left flank. She routinely delivered probing services that kept the Barons off-balance.
“We always watch film on upcoming teams,” she explained. “They always give us space on the outside especially with the switch. I was just trying to stay wide, create opportunities for Corynna or Bre to run off in the middle.”
Hackett set up DeHond with her seventh assist of the season.
“I just wanted to give everyone an opportunity to score.”
Rotoli’s goal was her team-leading 16th of the year. DeHond connected on her sixth marker of the season and added an assist.
Cate Burns made six saves for Spencerport.
Dilara Lenio scored the lone Brighton goal to level the match with 14:44 to go before halftime.
With the victory, the Rangers advanced to Thursday’s final where they will meet Our Lady of Mercy with a chance to win their fifth straight sectional title. Spencerport beat Mercy in late October by the score of 3-nil.
The two teams met in the 2018 Class A final. The Rangers outlasted the Monarchs 3-2 in overtime on a day when a persistent frozen rain blanketed the field. Hackett was a freshman on that team.
“It was awful,” Hackett said of the weather. “Hopefully the weather (on Thursday) won’t be as bad. I’m excited about going back.”
“We enjoy this time of year,” Schneider said. “It’s about being part of something bigger than yourself. One more game, we’ll be ready.”