SYRACUSE – Against a bigger, more experienced and more skilled side, the Cicero-North Syracuse girls soccer team displayed a lot of poise and maturity during last Saturday’s Class AAA regional final against Shenendehowa at Nottingham High School.
Yet it did not translate into a trip into the first-ever state Class AAA final four as the Northstars lost, 2-1, to the Plainsmen, who built a two-goal margin and had to work to the end to hang on to it.
Though C-NS began well in this game, it didn’t take long for Shen, the reigning Section II champions, to unleash its vast array of skilled midfielders that intended to stretch out the Northstars’ back line.
One of those midfelders, junior Julia Dirrado, worked from the left side in the 16th minute and then unleashed a hard shot that curled inside the right post and gave the Plainsmen a 1-0 lead.
It stayed that way the rest of the half, with C-NS often having to work back and protect its own net, which it managed to do to keep the margin at a single goal going to the break.
Unrelenting, Shen continued to assert its will, and while the Northstars held up for a while, in the 51st minute Ella McDonald burst up the middle and ripped a hard shot that zoomed past Meghan McGrath into the top right corner of the net.
Now trailing 2-0, C-NS began to show more urgency in its attack, forcing Shen to up its physical play, and the byproduct was that it started to earn set pieces on the Plainsmen’s end of the field.
That would include a free kick that eighth-grader Addie Mackey, with 19:58 to play, would bury into the top of the net, cutting the Northstars’ deficit back to one.
For the rest of the game, the Northstars, who rallied past Liverpool in the sectional Class AAA final, gave an all-out effort, playing closer defense and occasionally breaking out for chances, but unable to force overtime.
dC-NS finished its season 14-3-2 and only had five seniors on its roster. With a vast array of returning talent in 2024, expectations will only grow.