FREWSBURG - As the Salamanca Lady Warriors spent the last few remaining moments prior to their Division 2 girls soccer battle with host Frewsburg warming up, goalkeepers coach Steve Grabowski informed one player, Courtney James, that she had gotten the call.
Yes, James is a goaltender, but that's not to say there's any real regularity to when she plays.
In fact, over the first seven games of the season, the squad's other goalie, sophomore Kashauna Learn, has played, in terms of minutes, about two more games in the nets than her counterpart. But on this sunny Wednesday afternoon, Grabowski and coach Ryan Deppa had a good feeling about the senior.
Frewsburg’s Mackenzie Swartzman, left, and Salamanca’s Gabby Papa battle for the ball during Wednesday’s Division 2 girls soccer game. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Rob Tucker
Nineteen shots on goal, eight corner kicks, 18 saves, numerous decisive moments in which she charged out of the net in order to scoop up a dangerous loose ball and, most important of all, a 2-1 victory, and that hunch her coaches had turned out to be spot on.
The victory moved Salamanca to third place in the division with a 4-2 record while Frewsburg, which won its first three games in league play, dropped to fifth and is now 3-3.
James, who through 274 minutes this season has saved 86 percent of the shots sent her way, suffered just one blemish during an otherwise solid performance when, with her team enjoying a comfortable 2-0 advantage with under five minutes remaining, Frewsburg's Nikki Webber went top-shelf on a rebound following a Sam Mann free kick.
"She had a heck of a game," Deppa said. "She was very courageous. It was one of those situations where the goalkeeper coach made the decision just a few minutes before the game. Both of our keepers are solid - one day we'll use one and on the next we'll use the other - but today I thought she did a great job."
Until that late goal, James and the Salamanca defense had managed to turn back, in the face of mounting pressure, each of the Frewsburg scoring chances. And while there may not have been many in the first half, the Bears, with a change in strategy, amped up the pressure in the second.
Still, however, no one could beat James.
"We changed our formation at halftime and that seemed to help," Frewsburg coach Ericka Alm said, "but we're not finishing. We work on it and work on it and work on it, it's just not ... we're still trying to figure it out.
"Frustrated is a good word. We've got to get the ball in the back of the net and we're just not doing it this year."
While Frewsburg struggled offensively, Salamanca's Alyssa Coustenis had no such trouble.
Coustenis scored a pair of goals in the opening half with the first coming during a moment of confusion amongst the hosts.
Just nine minutes into the action Salamanca was awarded a corner kick. As Frewsburg was sorting out who was to mark who, the sophomore rushed up to teammate Micky Tinnerman in the corner, received the short pass and, untouched, carried the ball down the endline until she was within distance, firing a shot into the upper left corner of the net past Reyanne Strong, who was making her first start in goal for the Bears.
"That's normal," Deppa said of his goal scorer, who now is tied with Tinnerman with 10 goals this season. "She's a hard worker and she knows how to put the ball in the net. A goal like that takes a lot of composure and she put it away."
Coustenis tallied again some 30 minutes later when she chipped the ball past Strong, who was coming out of the net to clear the ball.
"(Strong) was pretty good," Alm said. "That (first goal off) the corner wasn't her fault, that falls on the team because they just weren't paying attention. The second one was her learning how to play the position. She came out and they were right there to put it in."
Salamanca returns to action on Friday at 7 p.m., at Portville. Frewsburg, meanwhile, will look to snap its three-game losing streak visits Randolph at 4:30 p.m.