Bethlehem and Shenendehowa will decide the Section II Class AA girls soccer title for the third year in a row.
Bethlehem (13-3-2) defeated Saratoga 2-0 in one semifinal game Friday at Schuylerville High School, while Shen (13-4-1) handled Shaker 3-1 in the other semifinal.
No. 4 Bethlehem scored both of its goals within the first 16 minutes of the first half and spent the rest of the game preserving its lead against near-constant pressure from top-seeded Saratoga (13-3-2) to earn its ninth Sectional championship game berth in the last 10 years.
“That’s always our goal,” said Bethlehem midfielder Allie Olsen. “No matter who’s graduated and who’s still on the team, that’s always the goal.”
“I’m the luckiest coach in Section II to have all the talent that has come through this program,” said Bethlehem coach Tom Rogan.
Tara Teal got the Lady Eagles on the scoreboard eight minutes into the first half when she redirected Jackie Kearney’s pass into the net. Several minutes later, Olsen lofted a long shot that sailed over Saratoga goaltender Liz Rogan and under the crossbar to give Bethlehem a two-goal cushion.
“I tried to compose [the shot] and get it in the back of the net,” said Olsen.
“That’s probably one of the toughest plays for a keeper to make,” said Saratoga coach Adrienne Dannehy. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, she [Rogan] punches that ball away.”
Saratoga turned up the pressure on Bethlehem’s defense, but the Lady Eagles held firm. Bethlehem crowded the back portion of the field with bodies, which made it difficult for Saratoga to find room to shoot the ball. The shots the Blue Streaks did get were smothered by Lady Eagle goaltender Katie Nickles, who made 18 saves.
“As soon as they got that two-goal lead, I’m sure he [coach Rogan] decided to pack the defense in because he knew how dangerous of a team we are,” said Dannehy.