Nardin seniors on the soccer team have had their share of success the past four seasons.
Six of them, as freshmen, were part of the Gators team that won the Monsignor Martin title in 2013, and the past two seasons as sophomores and juniors they were MMAA runners-up.
Now they can add 2016 Monsignor Martin champions to the list.
The Gators (15-1-1) edged out Nichols (9-11) in penalty kicks, 5-4, after ending regulation and two overtime periods tied, 2-2, in the Class A girls final at Niagara University on Sunday afternoon.
Part of the advantage to that senior leadership from players like Emma Gervase and Sydney Scello on this Nardin team is their ability to adapt to any style the game dictates.
On Sunday that meant adjusting to the slick turf conditions in the first half.
“Today was a sloppy game because of the rain,” Nardin coach Frank Cotroneo said, “and we had to play sloppy soccer to try to win. We changed the formation a couple times based on the need in the game at the time. … They know that and they’re really good at that.”
Later on in the game, as the rain ceased and the turf started to dry out, the Gators were able to knock the ball down and play to their strengths as a possession team.
“They’re mudders, but they’re finesse players as well,” Cotroneo said. “They’re also physical when they need to be physical, so they play all aspects of the game. I love that we can be diverse in however we approach the game.”
Nichols freshman Eliza Roach scored the first goal with 7:23 left in the half as the ball hit the far post and went in from an unlikely angle along the end line. Nardin sophomore Allyson Evoniuk evened it up 3:15 later when she beat the goalkeeper short side to the left on a well-placed shot from inside the box.
Roach tallied her second of the game with 10:22 left in regulation when she outraced a Nardin defender and tapped the ball past a charging keeper. Scello then roofed a rebound that was deflected off the initial save by the Nichols keeper to tie it back up with 5:09 left.
Nardin goalkeeper Emma Zielinski’s only save during penalty kicks was the first shooter, but that’s all the junior needed. That’s because seniors Hannah Lane, Scello and Gervase, and sophomores Abby Molloy and Olivia Jerge, did their jobs and buried their attempts.
The Gators will return to NU next Saturday for a Class A State Catholic semifinal game at 11 a.m.
Meanwhile, in the battle of the Hawks for the Class B title, Buffalo Seminary (8-2) topped Cardinal O’Hara (7-6) in overtime, 2-1, for the school’s first soccer championship since 2002.
After a scoreless second half, sophomore Malena Weber deposited the ball into the right side of the net 3:17 into the sudden-death extra period after she found herself wide open in front of the net on a feed from fellow sophomore Sophia Vaquero.
Vaquero opened the scoring 13:04 in when she tapped home a loose ball in front on a play that started with a free kick 30 yards straight out from the cage. O’Hara tied it up with 9:25 to go in the first half on a goal by freshman Morgan Applegate, who outmuscled a Seminary defender on a 20-yard run and then slipped a grounder past the keeper.
O’Hara played in Seminary’s end for much of the second half but weren’t able to capitalize on a free kick or any of their five corner kicks. Seminary also had a golden opportunity on a free kick from inside the box 15 yards away due to an illegal touching by the O’Hara goalkeeper, but the shot was blocked by a defender.
Since there’s no Class B in the State Catholic playoffs, Seminary’s reward is a bump up to Class A next season.