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Girls soccer: Bethlehem makes early goal stand

Lady Eagles edge Plainsmen in Class AA quarterfinals

Bethlehem’s Elle Lutz, left, battles two Shenendehowa players for the ball during Sunday’s Section II Class AA quarterfinal game in Clifton Park. The Lady Eagles advanced with a 1-0 win.

Bethlehem’s Elle Lutz, left, battles two Shenendehowa players for the ball during Sunday’s Section II Class AA quarterfinal game in Clifton Park. The Lady Eagles advanced with a 1-0 win. Photo by Rob Jonas.

— After playing in three consecutive title games, Bethlehem and Shenendehowa had been accustomed to meeting in the Section II Class AA girls soccer finals.

So, it was odd for both teams to meet in Sunday’s quarterfinal round in Clifton Park with the prospect of missing the semifinals for the first time in several years.

“We always play past Halloween,” said Bethlehem coach Tom Rogan. “I thought before this game, ‘My gosh, Halloween is still in front of us. What’s it going to be like on Halloween not to have a game to prepare for ?’”

Rogan’s Bethlehem team made certain he didn’t have to face that prospect. An early goal by Autumn Fetterolf and some timely saves by goaltender Katie Nickles helped the Lady Eagles (10-6-1) edge Shen (9-7-1) 1-0 and advance to Thursday’s Class AA semifinals against top-seeded Niskayuna.

It was the fifth time Shen had been shut out in its last six games.

“We’ve been in a little bit of a scoring slump,” said Shen coach Holli Mulholland. “We haven’t been able to finish our chances.”

Complicating matters for the Plainsmen was an injury to starting midfielder Paige Byrne the day before they met Bethlehem.

“We didn’t have much time (to adjust),” said Mulholland. “We had 30 minutes Saturday to find a new flow for our offense.”

Mulholland moved forward Kristen Connors to center midfield to replace Byrne, and it helped Shen create several scoring chances.

“Our transition and our pressure into the (penalty) box were all great,” said Mulholland. “We just couldn’t finish when we got the ball into the box.”

The lone goal came in the eighth minute of the first half. Shen goaltender Makayla Foley stopped Stephanie Dootz’s initial shot, but Fetterolf banged the rebound home for a 1-0 Bethlehem lead.

Once the Lady Eagles had the lead, they let their defense handle the rest. They consistently broke up passes near their own penalty box, which forced Shen to take long shots on goal that Nickles handled.

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