HERKIMER, N.Y. — Fifteen years after playing their first match, the Little Falls Mounties have reached new heights.
The Mounties are first-time Section III champions after beating Sauquoit Valley 1-0 Wednesday in the Class C-1 title match at Herkimer County Community College’s Wehrum Stadium.
Freshman Maria Morotti scored on a breakaway with 9:40 left to play and the Mounties (17-2-0) upset the tournament’s top seed and defending overall Class C champion.
“When you have opportunities, you have to take advantage,” Sauquoit Valley coach Tim Clive said. “If you don’t, it’s going to be a cold bus ride home.”
Clive’s Indians (16-3-0) dominated play throughout the match, a concession even opposing coach Sal Marchese would make after the contest. Morotti’s goal came on the only Little Falls shot of the second half with Sauquoit Valley applying almost constant pressure at the far end of the field.
“We had to catch lightning in a bottle,” Marchese said. “... I thought that if we could chip over the defense, because (Sauquoit Valley was) playing so far up, we’d have an opportunity.”
Seventy-one minutes into the match, that is just what the Mounties did. Little Falls got the ball over the heads of Sauquoit Valley’s last line of defense and Morotti headed it forward. She chased the ball forward and beat goalkeeper Alyson Gaffney with a shot along the turf to the right post.
“I knew that would definitely be the winning goal,” Morotti said. “We just needed to score before it got too late.”
Sauquoit Valley, ranked ninth in the state in Class C, had narrowly missed on a scoring chance of its own shortly before the Morotti goal. Kelly Brennan served a corner kick from Little Falls goalkeeper Cheyenne Rivenburg’s left and Brianne Cardillo volleyed the ball wide of the back post, a near-enough miss to trigger music from the public address announcer’s booth.
Rivenburg was credited with 14 saves in Little Falls’ 11th shutout, including three in rapid succession midway through the second half.
“I was scared on the inside but I was determined on the outside,” Rivenburg said, adding that after Morotti scored, “I had that feeling of being safe again. I knew we were still in this. We could still win it.”
Rivenburg’s play helped the Mounties overcame a 20-9 edge in shots for Sauquoit Valley.
“We kept bending but not breaking,” Marchese said. “We were contesting their shots and as long as we contest them, Cheyenne has a chance to save them.
“Cheyenne kept us in the game tonight.”
After the game Rivenburg and Sauquoit Valley’s Abbey Mielnicki received the tournament’s sportsmanship awards, the sectional soccer equivalent of being named their teams’ most valuable players.
Page 2 of 2 - Little Falls’ next stop will be SUNY-Cortland Saturday afternoon. The Mounties will meet Class C-2 champion Beaver River at 2 p.m. to play off for the chance to represent the section in the state Class C playoffs. Beaver River (9-6-3) scored two goals in the second half of Wednesday’s nightcap in Herkimer and defeated Fabius-Pompey.