Play your hearts out. Play till the final whistle.
The above credos top the overused list in the cliché-mad realm of sports, but one team that truly exemplified both was Burnt Hills Saturday in its state Class A semifinal against Somers.
Even in defeat.
The Spartans (17-5) dropped a 1-0 decision to the Tuskers at windswept Tompkins-Cortland Community College, with their final -- and best -- chance to crack Somers goalkeeper Beth Coppolecchia coming with less than a minute to play.
With the wind (more on that later) at her back, senior midfielder Emily Pearce drilled an absolute rocket from 40 yards out toward the upper-left corner. Coppolecchia stayed on her line, stabbing at the ball to send it upward. Despite the force of the offering sending her into her own goal, Coppolecchia was able to clear the end line and secure the ball before it had a chance to trickle back into the net.
Moments later, the inevitable final whistle signaled a heartbreaking end to Burnt Hills' season.
"I'm very, very proud of them," said Spartans head coach Brian Bold. "Even before we got off the bus before the game, I told them how proud of them I was this year. We had a phenomenal season."
Burnt Hills was in its seventh state final four in eight years, and it carried the confidence of a postseason-tested side all over the park. It played into the howling wind during the first half, but controlled the tempo and possession early on. The Spartans generated two shots and two corners in the first 10 minutes, with the second corner reaching Coppolecchia cleanly, forcing her to punch it away.
In the 15th minute, the Tuskers send a shot wide of the Spartan goal during their first serious foray into Burnt Hills' back third. The ensuing goal kick was booted high but short by junior keeper Florie Comley, and it allowed the Somers defense, playing with the wind, to pinch up. Freshman midfielder Melissa Righetti quickly gathered the ball and sent a rainbow offering that beat Comley, and the Burnt Hills defense, back to the goal for a 1-0 advantage.