What is it they say about payback?
Regardless of the way one wishes to answer that question, payback proved to be simply beautiful for the Williamsville North field hockey team Thursday night. The Spartans remained perfect on the season and settled an old score by beating longtime rival Penfield of Section V, 3-0, in the Class A Far West Regional qualifying game at Amherst High School's Dimp Wagner Field.
Not only did North improve to 20-0, but it also beat the team that ruined its state title dream two years ago in the Far West Regionals when Penfield dealt that Spartans crew its only loss in 21 games.
"There's a bunch of kids from that '05 team that happen to still be on the team. I don't think they ever let that loss go," North coach Kristine LaPaglia said.
"It feels great to win," said Chantae Miller, one of 10 seniors who were on that 2005 team. "We're on our way. We're not letting down. We're going to be state champions this year."
The Spartans advanced to Saturday's 5 p.m. state quarterfinal against state power Greene of Section IV at Oneonta State.
Williamsville North wasn't the only team to gain a measure of revenge Thursday, which proved to be bad news for an Iroquois team that saw its 14-game winning streak and dream of a state title die. A year after having its season ended by the upstart Chiefs, Pittsford-Sutherland returned the favor with a 1-0 triumph in the Class B qualifier.
Tiffany Raskopf scored three times during East Rochester's 4-0 domination of Holland in the Class C qualifier. An estimated 500 fans braved frigid conditions to attend.
Williamsville North hasn't reached the state final four since achieving the feat in 2003 and 2004.
The Spartans looked like they would reach the quarterfinals with ease after a dominating first half. But Penfield (13-5-1) stepped up the pressure during the opening 12 minutes of the second half, forcing North senior goalie Nicole Lewis to work for her 17th shutout of the season. She made two of her three saves during that stretch to protect the lead.
"We were trying to be more defensive and we play better when we're an offensive team," Miller said. "Our defense definitely saved us, especially Nicole."
Miller needed just 8:06 to do what Section VI's other teams failed to do in 120 minutes of action Thursday. Score.
She ripped in her 38th of the season from the top of the circle after receiving a pass off a penalty corner.
While Miller drew double and triple teams for most of the game, the future Michigan State Spartan made Penfield pay for all of that attention when she threaded the needle with a pass between a pair of defenders to a wide-open Allie Ahern, who converted the two-on-none break with 5:34 left. Adrianna Meholick's goal with 2:20 left prompted a celebration filled with cartwheels, while fans chanted "It's all over."
Iroquois defeated a strong Sutherland team via penalty strokes en route to a final four appearance last year. This time a fortuitous bounce on a seemingly broken play provided the Knights (11-3-5) with the opening to do the same to a Chiefs team featuring 15 seniors.
Kelly Stoutz poked in a loose ball in the goal crease after a penalty corner seemed to be thwarted, only for the ball to carom to Anna Dobrzynski. Her screened shot bounced to the right of the cage to an open Stoutz for the easy tap in.
"When you get to this level of play teams are so even that sometimes it comes down to a lucky bounce," Iroquois coach Pete Tonsoline said. "They got that lucky bounce and we didn't. [Sometimes] that happens in a game like this when you dominate a team and they capitalize on that one chance they get."
The Chiefs (19-2-1) failed on 11 penalty corner tries while allowing just four. Sutherland goalie Lindsay Malin made eight saves.
"We had some good chances, it just didn't go our way this time," said senior captain Rachel Sluberski. "It hurts but we've had a good season."
East Rochester's Taryn Schawillie and Raskopf scored 32 seconds apart during the first 6:08 of the game as last year's state runner-up easily seized control. Raskopf potted in two more in the second half and has scored five times in her last two games.
The Bombers (17-0-2) would have won by more than four goals if not for the spectacular goaltending of Ashley Wiskup, who finished with 10 saves for Holland (14-3-2).