Somers blanks Burnt Hills in state semis
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As the last line of defense, life as a soccer goalie can be difficult.
But Somers standout Beth Coppolecchia has learned to love it, welcoming the pressure-packed existence with open arms.
“Every game is a big game for a goalie,” she said. “Basically, the whole team is relying on you.”
And the Tuskers wouldn't have it any other way.
Coppolecchia was Somers' security blanket once again on Saturday afternoon, lifting the Tuskers (20-1-1) to a narrow 1-0 victory over Section 2's Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (17-5) in the NYS Class A semifinals at Tompkins-Cortland Community College. Somers will square off against South Side (Section 8) in the state title game on Sunday at Homer High School at 1 p.m.
The senior keeper made nine saves overall, stoning a Spartans squad that had racked up seven goals in their previous two state playoff wins.
No save was bigger than the one Coppolecchia made inside the final minute of regulation. Fighting a strong wind, she remarkably got her hands on a 40-yard rocket from Burnt Hills senior midfielder Emily Pearce.
A gust of wind played tricks on Pearce's shot, speeding the ball up twisting the trajectory as it darted toward the goal. Coppolecchia, positioned on her line, skied upward, knocking the ball down just beneath the bar. While she ended up in the net, the ball did not. Coppolecchia then sprang forward and corralled it, keeping Somers' dream of its first state title alive.
“I had to stay back and we had to play more defensive,” said Coppolecchia, who fought through the elements to make seven second-half saves.
Burnt Hills keeper Florie Comley wasn't so lucky, falling victim to the breezy conditions in the first half.
Somers' Melissa Righetti — with an assist from Mother Nature — one-touched a Comley goal-kick roughly 35 yards into the net, giving the Tuskers a 1-0 lead in the 14th minute. Flanked outside on the right, Righetti instinctually read the path of the ball, made solid contact with it and then let the wind handle the rest.
“When the goal kick came right toward me, I was trying to take a touch and then shoot,” said Righetti, a freshman midfielder. “But it just got away from me and I guess it was sort of lucky.”
When it comes to the do-or-die nature of playoff soccer, luck always plays a part in the outcome. Rest-assured, the Tuskers might will need a little more of it to upset South Side on Sunday. The Cyclones, who are coming off a 5-2 victory over Williamsville South in the other semifinal, have won seven NYS titles since 2000.
Of course, South Side can't win if it doesn't score. And with Coppolecchia commandeering the defense, Somers has to like its odds.
Email Isaac Cass at Icass@cablevision.com | Follow him on Twitter @MSGV_Icass