It’s hard enough defending either of Maple Grove seniors Chloe Kibbe or Clare Crossley; defending them both is nearly impossible.
Maple Grove possessed the ball and kept creating opportunities most of the way in the Class C girls soccer final on a rainy Saturday evening at Eden High School and eventually it was the team’s top scorers that came through with second half
Kibbe finished with a goal and an assist and Crossley added what turned out to be the game-winning goal – her team-leading 26th of the season – in second-seeded Maple Grove’s 2-1 win over top-seed Portville in the Class C championship game.
"They know where each other are," Maple Grove coach Michael Burr said. "They can blindly pass the ball to each other around the field. They kind of feed of each other. When everybody moves like they’re supposed to, then it really opens up some passing lanes."
The Red Dragons (17-1-1) won their second title in the past three seasons and seventh in the last 14 years and advance to next Saturday’s Class C Far West Regional at Webster-Thomas.
"I knew if we kept challenging them, we’d get some opportunities," Burr said. "I knew that those balls going through the box, some of them had to go in eventually."
They’ll be joined in the regionals by North Collins, which won a third straight Class D championship with a 3-0 win over Franklinville in an equally dominant performance in the second game at Eden. Senior Destiny Neamon, whose battled injuries this season, scored twice and junior Rebecca Holmes supplied the other goal for the Eagles (6-10-1), all three tallies coming in the
Class D was down to just two girls soccer teams this season and the final was the lone game of the bracket. Coach Vince Fininzio said playing against Class C competition in the regular season set his team up to play in this game.
"Once we found out that there were only two Class D teams, the regular season really became about preparation and mixing and matching and finding the right combination of players," he said. "Our work during the season put us in a good situation."
In the Class C final, with about 22 minutes left in the second half, Sydney Greiner sent the ball through to Kibbe, who came clear on the left side and drilled it high into the net to put Maple Grove up 1-0. About 11 minutes later, Kibbe sent a ball into the box to Crossley, who put the Red Dragons up 2-0.
"She was calling for the ball. I heard her loud and clear on that one," Kibbe said with a laugh.
Added Burr, "Clare didn’t stop moving the whole second half."
Senior Bryn Milne got Portville (14-5) on the scoreboard with seven minutes left in the game, scoring her team-leading 18th goal on a scramble in front of the net. It was Portville’s first and lone shot on goal in the second half.
"We did a really good job of defending and denying their scorers and trying not to give them good looks," Burr said.
After bad memories of losing in the sectional finals last year to Allegany-Limestone and falling by penalty kicks in the Far West Regionals in 2016, Kibbe said the team has something to prove as it looks for the program’s first regional win.
"This is what we wanted," Kibbe said. "This is what all of the practices and hard-fought games come down to. That would be nice to take a (Far West) title home."