In the biggest games of the girls soccer season, three of the top goal scorers in Western New York helped their teams win a championship.
Grand Island's Jessica Remmes scored a hat trick as the Vikings won their fifth straight sectional title by beating Williamsville East, 3-1, in the Class A final, while Clarence's Dani Radlich and Fredonia's Hannah Swift each scored two goals to lead their teams to titles Saturday afternoon at the West Seneca Soccer Complex.
Clarence beat Williamsville North, 3-1, for the Class AA championship while Fredonia beat Medina, 3-0, in the Class B final for the school's first sectional title in girls soccer.
The title trio will join Class C champion Portville and Class D winner North Collins in next weekend's Far West Regionals as the Section VI and Section V (Rochester) winners play for the right to advance to the state final four.
Top-seeded Grand Island (18-1-3) trailed, 1-0, at the half, but both coaches agreed that it was just a matter of time before Remmes would be a factor. The three goals gave the junior 43 on the season.
"She's one of the best players in the state -- you can only do so much," said Williamsville East coach Chris Durr. "(Defender) Jenny Porter did a great job, and Molly (Bojanek) made a number of saves that kept us in the game. But I think it was just a matter of time before she got a few goals."
Remmes' first goal came off a pass from Nicole Fischer down the left wing. Remmes' was a left-footed line drive that sailed into the back corner of the net to tie the game with 33:56 to go.
"We knew that in the first half we were just running to run, we were running with our heads down," said Remmes. "In the second half, we picked our heads up, looked for people, and played our game. Teams don't usually shut us out for 80 minutes straight, so we knew it was coming."
Grand Island continued to keep the ball in the East end for most of the half. Remmes, with her back to the goal at the top of the penalty box, took a feed from Alicia Fisher, shielded a defender, wheeled around and quickly slung a left-footed shot into the right corner with 17 minutes left. With 7:42 left, she scored a similar goal, cleanly trapping a long pass from Sara Hilliard, then turning and scoring for the 3-1 lead.
"With Jessica I always say, 'Sooner or later,' " said GI coach Peter Prozik, who said Remmes is playing at "60 percent" due to a severly bruised big toe. "Even though we were behind at halftime, the girls said, 'we're going to come back.' These girls have been together for a long time, and with the tradition on Grand Island, they don't know how to lose. They play with a lot of heart and desire."
East had taken a 1-0 lead on a goal by sophomore Krista Morgante, who intercepted a goal kick and unleashed a 25-foot shot that sailed just under the crossbar and over the outstretched arms of GI freshman goalie Alexandra Weiser.
"I thought we did a great job in the first half -- we did exactly what we needed to do," said Durr. "In the first half we played without any pressure, but once we went up, 1-0, it fired up Grand Island and we played a little cautious."
Grand Island, which has spent the entire season atop the Western New York large school poll, has just four seniors after 12 players graduated last year. This is Prozik's eighth and final season coaching the girls after 23 seasons coaching the boys at GI.
"I told these girls, 'You didn't want to see me quit yet?' " Prozik said with a laugh. "You want to put up with me for at least another week, right? And they all smiled at me. When you go out, you like to go out with a bang. And these girls are doing it for me."
East, which spent most of the season in the top three of the large school poll, has just five seniors, only one of whom is a starter.
"As young as we are, to come this far, to have a chance at a sectional title is huge," said Durr, whose third-seeded Flames finished 17-2-3. "It's a great group of kids."
After splitting their regular-season meetings in ECIC I, fourth-seeded Clarence (16-6) beat second-seeded Williamsville North (15-4-2). North won the ECIC I title.
"I don't think anyone gave us any shot of being here, let alone winning this game," said 12th-year Clarence coach Tim Liffiton. "Early in the year the (large school) poll came out and we weren't in the top 10 for the first time in a long time, and the kids took that as a motivational challenge. I told them that we would get a chance to prove it, and sure enough, we're here and to win it is great.
"We've had some seniors that have just poured out their heart and soul," Liffiton said, citing goalie Liz Stein, Cara Buscaglia, Katie Vogel, Michelle Rogers, Amy Telesz and Jill Wielinski.
Vogel scored Clarence's first goal, beating the goalie one-on-one after taking a through ball from Radlich.
Radlich, a junior who leads the Red Devils with 19 goals, scored twice on assists from Buscaglia. She took a through ball to break a 1-1 tie just before halftime. "I wanted it so bad," Radlich said. "I just had to put it in."
Radlich added the Red Devils' third goal by taking a feed on the wing and lofting a ball inside the far post.
"It feels awesome," said Buscaglia. "We're all so close. We didn't want to leave each other and it showed through our play."
Third-seeded Fredonia concluded a run that the Hillbillies weren't even sure they could pull off.
"Not in my wildest dreams," sixth-year coach Sam Conti said. "I knew we could have a strong team. We lost an all-star goalie and an all-star defender last year and we brought in a lot of young kids. But they're the best team I've ever had in terms of team cohesiveness and working together."
Swift scored her 41st and 42nd goals of season in the first half to put Fredonia in control.
Emma Weigle headed the ball up to Swift for her first goal, 11:38 before halftime. Swift added an unassisted goal less than eight minutes later with a nice shot to the far post from the 18-yard line.
Fredonia (16-1-2) added another goal when Ani Zdrojewski scored on a rebound of a Brittany Peterson shot with 12:48 left. Kari Ketchum made three saves in the shutout of Medina (12-9-1).
"At the beginning of the season, we had no idea this would happen," said Swift. "We kind of expected to be a .500 team. I did not expect this at all."