By Cam Huffman
With a gleeful team huddled around him in a warm locker room after a frigid morning match, Sissonville head coach Ali Sadeghian had two messages for his team. The first was that he was proud of what it had accomplished. The second was that it wasn’t finished yet.
The Lady Indians (21-0-3) will have a chance to complete a magical season in today’s Class AA-A girls state soccer final after dispensing Fairmont Senior 3-1 in Friday’s semifinal. They’re back in the finals, where they’ll face defending champion Bridgeport. They lost in the championship game in 2011
“We’re very excited and fortunate to be in this position,” said Sadeghian, in his 13th season with Sissonville. “We have one more game, and that’s our goal. It has been our goal since the beginning of the season. Now we just have to execute and get it done.”
Fairmont Senior (19-3-1) actually controlled the early action on a cold and windy morning at Carter Family Foundation Field — a surprise to some, after Sissonville ran away with a 4-1 decision against the same FSHS team in August — but the No. 3 Polar Bears couldn’t take advantage of some early opportunities to break the ice. Sissonville keeper Brooke Reed turned away a couple of scoring opportunities with some highlight reel saves in the first 20 minutes, before the Lady Indians flipped the switch on offense.
Sissonville, ranked No. 1 in the state, got on the board first in the 27th minute, when senior midfielder Mary Schmeck swung her leg from just outside of the box and lofted the ball over the head of Polar Bear goalkeeper Kayla Delorenzo into the upper right-hand corner of the goal.
“Karli Pinkerton crossed it across the 18, and I stopped it, beat the defender and just tried to keep it on frame,” said Schmeck of the early goal. “It was so vital, because the first team to score decides what the rest of the game feels like.”
That score looked as though it might hold for the opening half before a late Sissonville flurry changed the tone of the game.
A Taylor Rhodes goal in the 37th minute, off an assist from sophomore Madison Jones, gave the Lady Indians some breathing room.
“At practice we’ve been working on negative balls, and I was calling for it,” said Jones. “I didn’t know if she heard me or not, but it was a perfect pass, and I was just lucky to finish it.”
Two minutes later, Sissonville basically put the Polar Bears on ice when Jones scored on a free kick to put her team ahead 3-0.
“We had a hole to dig ourselves out of, but I had full faith we could come back in the second half,” said Polar Bear head coach Ryann Moore. “We’ve done it before.”
Fairmont Senior was unwilling to head north without a second-half fight, and Megan Wilt gave her team some momentum just 2 minutes into the second half when she scored off a corner kick from Gabi Mascaro. The kick was blocked by the keeper, but Wilt was there to clean it up and cut into the Sissonville lead.
“It was huge,” said Moore. “It was a huge momentum shift, and it gave us a chance. It just wasn’t our day.”
The Polar Bears tried to use that energy to go on the attack, but the Sissonville defense was too strong, keeping FSHS from drawing any closer on the way to an Indian victory.
Both teams had eight shots on goal. Delorenzo had four saves, while Reed had seven. Sissonville attempted 10 direct kicks, compared to 16 for FSHS.
“We feel so blessed,” said Schmeck. “I really can’t compare this to anything in the world. There’s nothing like it.”
Today’s AA-A girls final will begin at 10:30 a.m. today on Carter Field.
— E-mail: chuffman
@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.