Megan Strijek found the opening she had been waiting for in the playoffs.
Strijek tucked her 100th career goal inside the left post with 8:39 left in the second half to lead the Schalmont girls soccer team to a 1-0 victory over Section VII's Beekmantown in the Class B regional final Nov. 12 at Stillwater High School.
Strijek had been uncharacteristically silent throughout much of Schalmont's playoff run, but that changed when she slotted the ball by a diving Lauren O'Connor, the Beekmantown goaltender who had kept the Sabres off the scoreboard until that moment.
"It was really important. It couldn't have come at a better time," said Strijek, who increased her season total to 41 goals.
"I'm happy for her because it was her 100th goal in four years," said Schalmont coach Angelo Caschera. "I knew she was waiting the last four games to get it."
Moments earlier, Schalmont dodged a bullet when Beekmantown missed a golden opportunity to get the first goal when Kallie Villemarie sent a point-blank shot over the crossbar off a corner kick. The Sabres moved quickly down to the other end, where Strijek took Rachel Gac's pass and nudged it home to send the Sabres into their first state semifinal appearance since 2006.
"That's what happens in soccer," said Caschera. "You save a goal at one end, and you score at the other end."
Schalmont dominated possession of the ball in both halves, but O'Connor was up to the challenge as she stopped the first 15 shots she faced.
"[We were] too nervous," said Caschera. "On the way up here, the bus was too quiet."
Beekmantown made the most of the few chances it had on offense. The Eagles launched several shots that Schalmont goaltender Karley Murray stopped.
"We talked about stopping their players up front, and in the first half you could see we had trouble with them," said Caschera of Beekmantown. "But in the second half, we marked them better."
Schalmont meets Section I champion Bronxville in Saturday's state semifinal at SUNY Cortland. The winner of that game advances to Sunday's Class B final.
"It's so surreal, especially for us seniors," said Strijek. "We've never been this far before."