Palmyra-Macedon’s Samantha Gagliano and Kacie Matteson each scored twice Wednesday, breaking open a scoreless soccer game in the second half and sweeping past Newark, 4-0.
Gagliano, whose footwork and inevitable rush toward the net brought her all kinds of careful attention from Newark defenders, now has 20 goals on the season.
“She’s the best player I’ve ever had,” said Pal-Mac coach Mike Karns. “The whole game she had four or five Newark players around her.”
“Their star players really took it to us in the second half,” said Newark coach Jason Dentel. “They have girls who are definitely going to play college ball. I thought before the season that Pal-Mac was going to be the best team in the league.”
The game opened with Newark pressing the attack on the Raider side of the field, holding a 7-4 margin in shots. A special opening ceremony honored Taylor Bliss, a Newark player who graduated in 2010 and died as a result of an ATV accident this summer. She was a fixture as a coach in summer soccer programs.
During the ceremony, Bliss’s number 15 jersey was retired and her parents were given a framed jersey. Pat and Larry Bliss made a slow trip down a line of well-wishers and players, sharing hugs and tears.
“We’re a young team,” explained Dentel. “That ceremony is something a lot of my players hadn’t experienced before. We came out motivated.”
That motivation stymied several Raider runs at the Newark goal, with senior defensive back Amanda Knapp providing the principle bottleneck 20 yards out.
“She is a smart, tactical player,” Dentel said. “Amanda gets in good position and she’s the calmest player with the ball.”
Pal-Mac adjusted during halftime, and the youthful enthusiasm and motivation Newark had on display early in the game slowly dissipated as the Raiders got down to business. With 29:26 remaining, Julia Cosner took a first whack at the Newark goal. Her shot was stopped, but Matteson was all over the rebound and punched the ball past Newark keeper Monica Mason.
Newark appeared to answer that goal at 18:51, with Nicole Collins knocking the ball in off a direct kick, but she was called for offsides and the goal was disallowed. While Newark was still recovering from the disappointment, Gagliano struck, at 17:19.
“Emily (Blazey) just set a beautiful cross,” Gagliano said. “I turned my hips and finished it.”
Thundered it was more like it.
Matteson would take a feed from Gagliano with 12:14 left in the game and knock it home. The last score arrived with just 1:43 left in the game, resulting from a lot of Pal-Mac busywork right in front of the Newark net.
Page 2 of 2 - “Emily sent another great ball,” said Gagliano. “I just had to battle for it.” In the midst of the scrum, the ball came screaming off her right foot on a ground-pounder that Mason didn’t have a chance on.
“We came out flat-footed in the first half,” said Karns. “We were not pressing the ball, not moving our feet. We’ve had a pretty tough first eight games, playing good teams. We’ve been battle-tested early. And we still have a lot of work to do — you saw that in that first half.”
In the second half, the Red Raiders had a 14-4 shot margin.
Gagliano said the difference was effort and attitude. She knew her team had been frustrated by Newark’s attack in the first half. In the second half, she, Matteson and Blazey lead the rush past Newark.
Pal-Mac is now 3-3-2; Newark drops to 7-4.