FALCONER - The Allegany-Limestone Lady Gators entered Friday's Division 1 girls soccer match against Falconer on an impressive winning streak.
The Lady Gators hadn't lost a regular season match since 2008. They entered Friday night's match with 35 straight wins or ties and ironically enough, the last loss came on Oct. 9, 2008, to the very same Lady Golden Falcons.
Two years and six days later, Allegany-Limestone's (12-1-2, 6-1-2) streak is over.
Falconer’s Jenna Anderson and Allegany-Limestone’s Markie Woodarek battle for possession in the first half of a Division 1 girls soccer game on Friday. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Simon Teska
A second half goal with 19:15 left from Katie Snow was the only one of the match, as Falconer (10-2-2, 6-1-2) walked away with a 1-0 victory, adding another page to the storybook rivalry.
''They are great games,'' Allegany-Limestone coach Dale MacArthur said of matchups between the two schools recently. ''They're physical games. There's nobody we'd rather beat and there's nobody they'd rather beat. That's the way it is. You come out here, you lay it on the line, you go up and down the field and somebody scores a goal. That's just the way it is.''
The match started to open up in the second half as both teams began trading scoring opportunities. Possessions kept going back and forth, but the Lady Gators defense held its ground while goaltender Natalie Burns of Falconer was called upon to make some skillful saves at her end.
As the game appeared destined for overtime, where several Falconer versus Allegany-Limestone matches have gone to in recent history, the Lady Falcon offense broke down the defense of the Lady Gators and Snow got loose for her shot.
''I heard Kayleigh (Erickson) say, 'One touch, one touch,''' Snow said of the play that set her up. ''Then she said, 'Shoot, shoot.' I didn't even know where the goal was, but I shot it and it went in.''
With her back to the net, Snow received a pass form Jenna Anderson, shook off the defender with a simple dribble, turned around and buried the shot in the top corner of the net. It was the only goal Falconer would need as the defense did the rest.
''This puts us in a good spot,'' Falconer coach Kersten Hardy said. ''If we win on Wednesday, we tie for the league, so we just have one more to go.''
Although Allegany-Limestone was held scoreless, the Lady Gators are a far cry from being pressed to score goals. Through the first 14 games of the season, they outscored their opponents 44-3 and now after No. 15, it remains a respectable 44-4.
Hardy tweaked the defensive scheme of the Lady Falcons slightly to counter the speedy forwards of Allegany-Limestone by using the speed of Sarah Spangenburg to neutralize one scoring threat and relying on Mary Strand to do what she's been doing well all year-shut down the opponent's best.
''I had (Spangenburg) man-marking Mallory Clark, so I just told her everywhere she goes, you go with her,'' Hardy said. ''She did awesome. She did an awesome job and shut her out. Mary did an awesome job on Hannah Phearsdorf also. She's leading the league in goals right now and she got shut out.''
Phearsdorf entered the match with 18 goals on the season and was blanked by Strand and the rest of the Falconer defense.
''I think it was determination I guess to not let her get the ball and just do it,'' Strand said. ''I have a reason to (shut her down). I wanted to do it for the team and I don't think this is a selfish team. We play for everybody.''
Other key players contributing to the Falconer win were Erickson and Megan Steele in the midfield, Denise Ditschkowski and Alexa Marucci on offense and Erin Burnett on defense.
''This is probably our best game we've played together,'' Erickson said. ''We passed and we moved the ball well. This was our game. This was the one thing this season we wanted the most.''
For the Lady Falcons, there was a little retribution as well with this win after getting knocked out of the postseason the past two seasons by the Lady Gators.
''This was the perfect game to show exactly what we had,'' Burnett added. ''The first game of the year we played Maple Grove and that was especially terrible. We worked our way up from that and we've improved so much. I don't think anyone understands that.''
Despite enduring their first loss of the season, the outcome in no way tarnishes the recent success of the Lady Gator girls soccer program. They'll still be among the teams to beat once the postseason begins when anything is possible.
''The success of the program, I think it's continuity, for one thing,'' MacArthur said. ''We've had the same coaches on jayvee and varsity for a number of years. I think that's important. I think the commitment of the kids and the community to the program is also important. That's not anything the coaches are particularly smart about, it's just when you have a good group of kids that makes it easy.''
Falconer has just one league game left with Olean before the postseason begins and the players are already looking forward to keeping their season alive. The benchmark victory over Allegany-Limestone will certainly get them going in the right direction.
''Every single time out my team surprises me,'' Anderson said. ''I know we're good, but then we go out and do something like this. Wow.''
In junior varsity action, Falconer downed Allegany-Limestone, 2-0. Katie Keith and Emma Steele were the goal scorers. Jordyn Jones got the victory in goal with 13 saves.