Sara Hilliard and Dani Radlich delivered some vicious kicks during the Far West Regionals on Saturday at Albion High School. But while Hilliard and the Grand Island Vikings experienced deja vu, Radlich and the Clarence Red Devils experienced heartbreak and pain.
Hilliard and Alicia Fisher scored for Grand Island's Section VI Class A champions who blanked their Section V counterpart Aquinas, 2-0. Hilliard's long boot from about 35 yards broke a scoreless tie with 16:35 left as the Vikings (19-1-3) advanced to their third straight state Final Four.
"She's a captain and being a senior she took charge," Vikings coach Peter Prozik said. "That's what I always expect and she's been doing that all year."
Clarence held the lead three times but fell in sudden death overtime to Greece-Athena, 4-3, in Class AA. Section V's Wheatland-Chili beat Portville in Class C, 3-1.
"This was the first year our whole team pulled together and had a bond and acted like sisters and just like that it's done," said Radlich, who finished the season with 22 goals for Clarence.
Grand Island will play at 5 p.m. Friday in the state semis at Binghamton High School thanks to Hilliard's big kick. Seconds earlier the Vikings had missed a great scoring chance from in close. Then Hilliard received a pass from Fisher and unleashed what did not to appear to be a dangerous shot. However, the ball zipped into the top of the net over the hands of Aquinas goalie Heather Morse.
"I just saw the keeper came off her line a little and just let it go," said Hilliard, who scored the game-winning goal in overtime in last year's 3-2 win over Churchville-Chili in the Far West Regionals. "I don't know what I was thinking (shooting from there). It was definitely a feeling. I don't know how to describe it."
Rachelle Cariello marked GI sharpshooter Jessica Remmes the whole game, limiting her to few scoring chances. Remmes, who played with an injured big toe, did create opportunities for her teammates and earned the assist on Fisher's goal with 8:15 left.
"She kept them busy on defense," said Prozik of Remmes, who came into the game with 43 goals. "As long as she can do that and as long as we got one goal I felt that'd be enough."
Grand Island has lost in the state semifinals the last two years.
"These girls are playing with so much confidence," Prozik said. "The closeness, the way they help each other off the field and the confidence that they know they can play -- hopefully we can go a step further than we did last year."
Freshman Allie Weiser made six saves to post her 15th shutout of the season.
Aquinas finished 11-11-1.
In Tim Liffiton's 14 years as coach, Clarence had never scored in a Far West Regional game. When Radlich booted a 20-foot blast in non-sudden death overtime, his team was 18 minutes and 25 seconds away from advancing to the state semifinals for the first time under his watch. But Athena tied the game with 3:42 left in overtime when Megan Mancarella headed a Natalie Santoleri corner kick into the net. Athena won it when Katelyn Shelofsky drilled a left cross pass from Megan Murray into the right corner 58 seconds into sudden death.
"It's disappointing," Radlich said. "We worked so hard. They get a good chance and they took advantage of it."
Murray and Jamie Dentino also scored for Athena, which trailed at halftime, 2-1.
Kellie McMahon scored in the second half for Portville (14-5-1) but Wheatland-Chili (19-3) had scored three in the first 17 minutes.
"They were just a little quicker than us at the beginning," Portville coach Bob George said. "We got in a hole and it's hard to fight back from three goals down."