Championship moments tend to become rather euphoric, but St. Joe's wasn't completely lost in the moment Sunday afternoon.
After the Marauders dispatched St. Francis, 3-1, to capture their first Monsignor Martin Association boys soccer title since 2002, the team's celebration shifted from the field to the fence closest to the stands where they hugged the parents of the late Eric Bredenberg and delivered a simple message.
"This was for him," said senior captain Ryan Mura, a former teammate of Bredenberg, who drowned while swimming with friends shortly after graduation. "We said that we finished what Eric wanted to do last year. Everybody kept it in the back of their mind who we were playing for this whole season."
The Marauders (14-2-2) are still playing for Bredenberg, as they will face a still-to-be-determined foe Nov. 10 in the state Catholic semifinals in New Rochelle.
St. Joe's recovered from an early deficit with two goals in the final 5:53 of the first half. Mura netted the winner with three seconds left. St. Francis finished 8-5-1.
St. Joe's wasn't the only team to blow into the state semis on an extremely windy day at Amherst High School. The Mount St. Mary girls earned their second straight trip to the final four by scoring thrice during the penalty-kick shootout to earn a 1-0 triumph over Nichols (10-7-1).
League co-MVP Caitlin Long, Emily Wyse and Sarah Galante scored in succession for the Thunder (13-2-1) against league co-MVP Adele Jackson-Gibson after both teams failed on their first two kick attempts. Junior Nicole Faulise came out on the winning end of a duel between two of Western New York's top goalies -- making two saves during the shootout and receiving help from the crossbar on another shot.
"We practiced penalty kicks a lot during the week in practice, and I was confident in our kickers as well as myself," said Faulise. "We played with a lot of heart. I have confidence with us being able to bring [the state title] back home with us."
St. Mary's of Lancaster (4-3) came in expecting to win the first Catholic small school title and did just that in dealing Buffalo Seminary its first league loss, 3-1. There is no state tournament for the small schools.
Alison Bowen scored twice for the Lancers, who lost both regular season meetings to Buffalo Seminary (7-5). That didn't stop assistant coach Evan Williamson from bringing bottles of sparkling grape juice and whipped cream for a postgame celebration.