The Braves aim for their fourth Section V championship, while the Red Raiders boys and girls each seek their first
The pursuit of Section V championships on Tuesday is as close as it’s going to get just short of winning the darn thing. And for three local teams, the pursuit runs the gamut.
For the Canandaigua Academy girls, a victory in the Class B game would give the school its fourth championship. But for the Palmyra-Macedon girls in Class D, it would be the school’s first. And for the Pal-Mac boys in Class C, same.
But no matter how many titles these teams have or don’t have in their history, there is a common thread: In no way are they simply happy to be where they are. They want more and the road each has taken to Tuesday night has offered unique twists and turns.
And that’s the type of journey that makes championships so special, so here’s a look at the three championship games on Tuesday night that involve area teams.
Class B girls
No. 2 Canandaigua Academy vs. No. 4 Webster Thomas at Pittsford Sutherland, 5 p.m.
Yes, the Braves (14-4) beat Thomas (13-6) back in April by a goal, but Thomas also just beat No. 1 seed Brighton so coach Alyssa Zacharias and the Braves are taking nothing for granted against a Titans squad that has won seven straight and nine of its last 10.
“We’re very excited,” the first-year coach said. “We told this team early that we have the talent to go far if we come together and play together … so we’ve been keeping our mind on what we can control and focus on the minor details.”
Zacharias said the athletic midfield and senior leadership across the board has been invaluable in getting the Braves to where they are. It also helps to have a balanced offense that has five players with 20 or more goals. Freshman LaRen Blakesley leads the team with 40 and senior Peyton Smith (39) and junior Megan Hoffman (24) lead the scoring options, while senior Izzy Kenyon and junior Cassidy King have been effective in sharing goalkeeping duties.
How the CA defense responds against a Thomas offense led by seniors Nicole Voci (48 goals) and Emily Glagolev (39) and junior Mary Soures (41) will be the key.
“Our defense has been improving every single game,” said Zacharias. “We’re very confident and they were very confident over the last couple of practices.”
The Braves last played for a Section V title in 2013, losing to Brighton. Thomas last played in 2015, losing to Victor. Thomas won its only Section V title as a Class A school in 2006, while the Braves last won a title in 2012, beating Irondequoit.
Canandaigua leads the all-time series between these schools, 6-5.
Class D girls
No. 2 Palmyra-Macedon vs. No. 4 Penn Yan at Pittsford Sutherland, 7 p.m.
The Red Raiders (15-3) believe they’re as ready as they can be to bring home their first Section V title. They’re up against a Penn Yan team (12-6) that’s got plenty of history and tradition.
But the Red Raiders have a 12-7 win over the Mustangs in their pocket from earlier this season and the the three losses are all to bigger schools. Still, this is a Penn Yan team that has six appearances in championship games, so coach E.J. Burse is urging the Red Raiders to keep the pedal to the metal.
“We are by no means overconfident,” said Burse. “But we have a lot of young girls who have put in a lot of time over the years, so we think that will be beneficial.”
The Red Raiders bring an offense that’s scored 15 or more goals in 11 games this season thanks to an explosive offense that has a leader in freshman Andra Savage and her 65 goals. But four other players have 30 or more goals with seniors Anna Leva (40) and Aldyn Savage (34) and sophomores Emma Arnold (39) and Jamie Walker (33).
But make no mistake, the work of the defense has been equally as impressive and Marquette University-bound senior Sophia Leva has been the catalyst. She’s got a stunning save percentage at 63%, which means she’s not only stopping the shots she’s supposed to stop, but she’s also getting help from the defense in front of her by directing shooters to lanes that gives the goalie clear vision.
“You have to be married to the idea of being a team player,” Burse said of his defense. “And we’ve been lucky enough to have a group of girls who are hard-wired to play for each other. They have a desire to play for each other.”
As important as those two facets are, however, Burse maintains possession will be the key against Penn Yan.
“The key to any game is 50-50 balls,” he said. “Whether it’s winning ground balls or draw controls, that has to be what’s paramount in a kid’s mind if you’re going to win a game.”
Penn Yan brings an offense that packs plenty of punch with a pair of 50-goal scorers in senior Brenna Voigt (50) and junior Elissa Callaway (56). Juniors Hannah Keech (47) and Sydney Bloom (28) provide more depth, and sophomore goalie Alexandra Cox registers a save percentage of 51%.
Penn Yan is 12-4 all-time against Pal-Mac, but Pal-Mac has won the last two meetings.
Class C boys
No. 2 Palmyra-Macedon vs. No. 1 Honeoye Falls-Lima at St. John Fisher, 5 p.m.
Palmyra-Macedon (16-2) is back in the championship game for the first time since losing the 2014 Class C title game to Penn Yan. And HF-L (17-1) is in its first final since 2005.
These teams didn’t play each other during the season so where this game goes is anybody’s guess. The one known for this game? Defenses will be tested.
The Red Raiders are averaging 14.5 goals per game and HF-L is averaging 16. Pal-Mac brings it offensively from all areas, with the most production coming from senior attackman Brian Burger (65 goals). Seniors Joe Lyko (34), Kasey Gallina (29) and James Blazey (26), along with freshman Grady Arnold (27) round out the offensive depth for the Red Raiders and long-stick senior midfielder Nate Arnold is among the area’s best in helping on defense and sparking transition.
Speaking of defense, Pal-Mac has one of the best stoppers in the section in senior Jared Hurlbutt, who has double-digit saves in four games this season in registering a save percentage of 67%.
The Red Raiders will need that defense to be in order against an HF-L offense that is loaded with finishers led by sophomore Andrew Mapstone (53), junior Garrett Ruff (50) and junior Jonathan Roth (42). Three more players have 20 or more goals, and the defense is anchored by senior goalie Ben Tomaszewski (50%).
HF-L has used six different players on faceoffs with most of the duty shared by juniors Parker Hotchkiss (56%) and Roth (53%).
It’s been five years since these teams played their only game against each other, with HF-L recording a 15-7 win in 2102. But there is one interesting stat that may or may not be telling in terms of how well these teams move and share the ball on offense: Pal-Mac has assists on 76% of its goals this season, HF-L has assists on 60%.