Blue Devils season ends against Elmira Notre Dame
By John Bernhardt
You know you’ve had a terrific season when your first loss comes in your final game in the post season. That was the case for the Margaretville boys’ soccer team when they fell to Elmira Notre Dame, 2-0, Thursday in the Section IV semifinals at the Wright National Soccer Campus in Oneonta. The defeat ended the Margaretville soccer campaign at 13-1-3.
It didn’t take long to ascertain that in Notre Dame, the Blue Devils faced a formidable opponent. The Crusaders kept the ball boxed into the Margaretville defensive side of the field for much of the contest. Notre Dame was especially strong in the midfield. Tall, fast, and skilled, the Crusader midfield seemed to gain traction as the contest ensued.
Yet, soccer can be a great equalizer. Margaretville soccer fans remember a 1999 girls’ soccer team that rarely advanced the ball beyond midfield in regulation and overtime play, but upended Lebanon Central School in a shootout to advance to the state championship game. Four years later, the conditions were almost the same when another group of Lady Blue Devils, used a direct kick and Claire Cella’s goal on a rare offensive surge to advance past GMU, 1-0, as Section IV champions moving to the state championship tournament, a tournament they would win. The Blue Devils hopes on Thursday rested with their defense and that one moment in time.
Notre Dame put a dent in that scenario with just over 15 minutes left to play in the opening half.
The play was initiated by some incredible footwork by Crusader forward Li Molingou. Molingou took the ball from right to left and then back again to work it past a Blue Devil outside defender. He then grounded a cross that skidded through the box from right to left finding Brandon Mahajan streaking toward the goal. A charging Margaretville goalie Mitch Hull never had a chance when Mahajan changed direction, tapping a shot to Hull’s left and into the nets.
The second Crusader goal wiped out Margaretville’s chances for that one moment in time. When the ball hit the back of the nets midway in the second half, the Blue Devils had yet to take their first shot on goal. It would now take two moments in time to force a tie.
Mahajan played a hand in the second Crusader score. His cross turned into an assist when a Margaretville defender failed to get a foot on a potential clear, leaving Alex Nassan point blank in front of the nets for the score.
Margaretville would take their first shot on goal with just over 16 minutes left in the game. The Blue Devils managed two more shots down the home stretch, one a near score with under a minute left in the game.
Initial disappointment does not erase an outstanding Blue Devils’ season. And, the future looks bright. The Margaretville roster was dominated by underclassmen, Blue Devils who will return faster, stronger and hungrier to add another Sectional IV championship to Margaretville’s soccer story.