Player of the Year in Western New York. First-team all-state. First-team All-Western New York.
Marissa Birzon of Williamsville East smiled when asked if she’s grown tired of accepting honors for her superb girls soccer season.
“It’s a lot of fun,” she said. “It shows how much fun our season was.”
The Flames standout had an outstanding junior season, worthy of any plaudits that came her way. Even better was the fact that she and her teammates had a terrific year, making it all the way to the New York State semifinals.
“I thought our communication and our connection with each other were important,” Birzon said. “Our team was very close, and I think that carried on to the soccer field. We were able to work through any problems that we had, and that led to much of our success.”
Birzon was the only Flame to be selected to the first team of the All-Western New York squad, as chosen by a group of coaches. Riley Fitzsimmons and Tess Ford were on the second team. Birzon was the Flames’ leading scorer with a school-record 50 goals, and an injury that hampered her play in the postseason may have played a role in Williamsville East’s loss to Islip in Cortland in the state championships.
“Our state game was a tough loss for us, but that doesn’t define our season,” she said. “We had an unbelievable season,” with a 20-2 record.
“It was a long drive back. We were all bummed out, but that just creates more fire for us for next year.”
Clarence (18-3) also lost in the state semifinals, falling to Massapequa for the second straight year. The Red Devils had four players on the first team, the most of any high school. Forward Sydney Cerza, midfielder Riley Bowers, defender Hannah Spitzer and goalkeeper Molly Barden were all picked.
Cerza had 29 goals this season and has 110 in her great career. That’s a school record. Bowers’ overtime goal pushed Clarence past Victor and into the state semifinals. Spitzer has been a starter for all three years of her high school career. She has one more year at Clarence before moving on to Duquesne.
Wilson (20-3) went one better than Clarence and Williamsville East in the state championships, reaching the state finals. Kayla Neumann of the Lakewomen was a second-team selection, and was a first-team All-New York State pick in Class B.
Six of the 13 players selected as Western New York’s best were repeaters from 2014. That included Birzon, Spitzer, Marcy Barberic and Madisyn Pezzino of Grand Island, Emma Gervase of Nardin, and Morgan Zlockie of Ellicottville.
Barberic and Pezzino were part of a Grand Island squad that lost to Williamsville East in double overtime in the sectional final. Pezzino had 53 goals in 2015, breaking her own school record. Barberic finished with 34 goals and 15 assists.
Nardin lost the Monsignor Martin A Division final to Sacred Heart in double overtime. Gervase was the league’s Most Valuable Player in both 2014 and 2015.
Zlockie’s Ellicottville team dropped a decision in the Far West Regionals after taking the Class D sectional crown. She leaves school as Ellicottville’s all-time leading scorer, adding 32 goals to her total this past season.
The other players selected were Maya Palmer of Williamsville North, Eileen Rath of Nardin, Amanda Roberts of Amherst and Allie Smyth of North Tonawanda.
Palmer has been a starter for Williamsville North for four years. She’s played forward and defender. Rath has been her team’s MVP three times, and carries a 97 average to rank as a top scholar-athlete.
Roberts had four goals and six assists for the Tigers, and she calls a quarterfinal win over Iroquois the most memorable of the season. Smyth was all-conference in 2014, so her play took a large step up in a year to earn All-Western New York honors.
Chris Durr of Williamsville East and Dale MacArthur of Allegany-Limestone were the co-coaches of the year.