NORWICH, N.Y. — Easy? Easy? Banish the thought.
The Poland Tornadoes’ 4-0 win over Milford in a Class D state regional final Saturday was not the trouble-free ride to the state semifinals it appeared to be — at least for some at the Norwich High School stadium.
“Yeah, not on the field,” Poland senior Alyssa Lepper said. “Yes, we finished four goals, but we had to work up to that, and it started from the goalie to the strikers.”
Mikayla Blumenstock scored three goals, Tara Seigle scored the other, and Lepper, a midfielder and one of the caretakers of the prized Poland possession game, steered the defending Class D state champions to a return to the Cortland area next weekend.
State-ranked No. 1 Poland (17-2-0) plays Section IX Eldred, a 2-1 winner over Section II Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville, at noon Saturday at one of four sites: Cortland High School, Homer High School, SUNY-Cortland or Tompkins-Cortland Community College.
“Special,” Poland coach Tom Basel said. “It feels special. We talk about legacy, and that’s our rallying cry. When you’re building in this fashion, it’s a gift for the next years, the next generations coming up.”
Blumenstock, a sophomore forward, has already carved out an impressive legacy in Poland uniform. She is the school’s all-time leading goal scorer with 111 goals and she has 44 this season. Her first goal Saturday, on a close-range shot 12 minutes in, barely registered on Blumenstock’s excitement scale.
“We didn’t think it went in,” Blumenstock explained. “The second one — we wanted it to count.”
Blumenstock finished that goal, too, about 5 1/2 minutes later. When Seigle scored the third Poland goal with 1:46 left in the first half, the Tornadoes were set for their third state Final Four appearance under Basel’s watch.
Before the deluge of goals, the key to the win might have been found in the opening five minutes of the match Milford, the Section IV champion, established possession early and kept the ball in the Poland defensive end of the field. The Tornadoes soon settled down, settled into their possession game as has been the case many times in the last two seasons, and controlled the ball around the Wildcats’ net for most of the rest of the first half.
Poland outshot Milford 13-2. Courtney Green was credited with one save and Claire Lepper with two in the shutout for the Tornadoes. Milford’s Rukiye Henderson made eight saves.
“I’ll give Poland all the credit in the world,” Milford coach Chris Saggese said. “They’re the best Class D girls’ soccer team I’ve ever seen, hands-down. They have it all, skill, possession and ball movement.”