Quinn DeCicco and Kaitlyn Higby provided the finishing touches each’s respective girls soccer team needed Tuesday night to earn spots in the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association Tournament.
DeCicco’s second goal of the game late in the second half broke a 1-1 tie and enabled Amherst to defeat longtime nemesis Williamsville East, 2-1, in the overall Section VI Class A final at the Williamsville North Athletic Complex.
It’s believed to be the first time the Tigers have ever reached the state quarterfinals in this sport.
“Our goal was a blue patch (awarded to the Section VI champion) and a winning season and I’m so happy we did that,” DeCicco said. “I’ve been on varsity since eighth grade, we’ve never gotten this far. ... As a senior, this is my last time playing soccer so this means a lot.”
Victory also meant a lot to Allegany-Limestone. Higby’s goal late in the second overtime period served as the game-winner as the Gators beat rival Olean, 2-1, for the overall Class B crown.
Amherst and Allegany-Limestone return to action Saturday at Webster Schroeder High School where they will face their Section V Rochester-area champion counterparts in the Far West Regionals/state quarterfinals.
While A/L, which won the state title last year in Class C, is no stranger to this portion of the postseason, this is an all new experience for Amherst.
The Tigers were loving every minute of it, celebrating wildly after the game and then high-fiving fans along the fence after accepting the plaque awarded to the overall classification champion.
Amherst and Will East played to a pair of ties during the regular season, so something had to give in this match.
After both teams played to a scoreless first half, Amherst finally broke through with just over 18 minutes left on DeCicco’s first goal of the night. The Flames, one of the most successful girls soccer teams in the area, tied it six minutes later on Alyssa Fabozzi’s goal.
That set the stage for oohs and ahhs down the stretch with the Tigers getting to roar loudly on DeCicco’s second goal in which Emma Klein made one of her signature charges, attacking the defense and then sending a perfect pass for DeCiccio to finish with a boot just under the bar.
“Emma Klein was making a long run up the field, I saw the gap in the defense. She sent a perfect ball right to my foot and I was able to finish it,” DeCicco said.
In the opening game of the twin bill at North, Allegany-Limestone is grateful Higby isn’t afraid to use her head to score.
Her knack for being able to score off headers gives the Gators another chance to add to their state championship collection.
Higby’s header off a Molly McClelland corner kick broke a deadlock with 3:38 left in the second OT. The diminutive Higby sized up the pass from McClelland, jumped high to redirect the ball past the Huskies goalkeeper.
The Gators, who split two regular-season games with Olean, then milked the rest of the clock to earn their date with the Section V champion Saturday night.
“We knew how we felt in the game we won (during the season against Olean),” said Higby, who also scored the Gators’ first goal via header off a corner. “We just wanted to repeat that. It’s amazing. It’s unbelievable.”
Added winning coach Dale MacArthur: “This is special no matter whether you’ve done it before or not. You get essentially the state quarterfinals and we’ve done something. And to do it stepping up from a C to a B I’m just really happy for the kids, we obviously have some good players. .... They’ve worked really hard. ... As a coach it’s really rewarding to see your kids accomplish.”