When you can count the number of goals you’ve given up all season on one hand, it sounds like you’re entitled to be pretty impressed with yourself. Not Chris Norcia.
The starting goalie on the East Aurora boys soccer team knows better than anyone the talent that’s in front of him, and how much easier teammates have made his life during a 17-0 season to date.
“They’ve been like a brick wall all season,” Norcia said of his defense. “It’s not like I’m making 15 saves a game. They don’t allow breakaways; they just don’t give up anything. We scrimmaged Clarence last week and they had five shots on net, and that was the most I’ve seen all season.”
When the senior is counted on to make saves, Norcia is aggressive, fearless and a consummate leader.
The Blue Devils have outscored opponents, 112-3, this season and all three goals were off restarts.
While Norcia has given up just one of those goals, he deflected the credit to his defense. He said junior Mike Franz is great one-on-one, and if he gets beat, he always comes back and wins the ball back.
Another junior defender, Kyle Kleckner, who Norcia said is someone he can always count on, is very quick to react to opponents who are free. Sophomore Harrison Fay, freshman Noah Thompson and senior Brad Weir have also contributed to the stingy defense. Senior Austin Parr gives the Blue Devils another go-to goalkeeper.
East Aurora’s unbeaten record includes nonleague wins over Hamburg, Nichols, St. Joe’s and Iroquois. It entered the Section VI Tournament as the top seed in Class B-1. EA opened the postseason Friday with an 8-0 win over Alden.
Monday’s Class B-1 semifinals between East Aurora vs. Albion and Newfane vs. Olean were postponed. They have been rescheduled for Wednesday at All High Stadium. The winners will meet for the B-1 title on Saturday at Hamburg at 2:30 p.m.
With a defense keeping the ball a safe distance from its goal, that leaves a potent offense to inflict its will for East Aurora.
Senior Parker Healy has scored in every game he’s played in and currently has 27 goals. He had three of his team’s four goals in the win against Nichols. He missed the Alden game with a back injury and hopes to be cleared this week.
“He’s got a special extra gear,” EA coach Kevin Beale said of Healy. “He’s got moves, speed and he’s strong in the air. He’s always in the mix and teams are aware of him.”
Senior Ryan Keller is like a point guard breaking the school record for assists in a season with 20.
East Aurora enjoyed a long stay as the No. 1 ranked team in the state in Class B, but currently sits at No. 2 behind Livonia of Section V. EA has been successful for a while. In 2008 the Blue Devils reached the Class B state finals.
Newfane’s 13-2-1 record includes a win and a tie with last year’s state semifinalist Akron. Ryan Doyle has 13 goals for Newfane, winner of the Niagara-Orleans League (10-1-1). The Panthers are 9-0-1 in their last 10 games and are on a five-game winning streak. Newfane is No. 15 in the state.
Olean sports a 13-2-2 record and is led by Collin Young.
The boys Section VI Tournament is down to its Final Four in most classes. Here’s an updated look at who’s still kicking:
CLASS AA SEMIFINALS: No. 1 seed Clarence isn’t just 17-0, it is ranked No. 2 in New York State and No. 17 in the NSCAA/Adidas National poll. Clarence takes on No. 5 seed Niagara-Wheatfield on Wednesday at Hamburg. The Red Devils have outscored opponents, 48-8, led by Brendon Law’s 13 goals. They are ranked No. 1 in the WNY Coaches poll, but only by a one-point margin over Williamsville East.
Niagara-Wheatfield knocked off defending champion Lancaster on penalty kicks. The Falcons sport a modest 9-8 record, but have won six of their last eight with the loses coming to Lockport, 2-0, and Grand Island, 2-1. Sophomore Jeremy Bari had 11 goals.
No. 2 seed Lockport has been eliminated in the semifinal round the last three years. It looks to change its luck against No. 3 seed Orchard Park when they meet on Wednesday at Hamburg.
Providing the firepower for the undefeated Lions (17-0 and ranked No. 4 in the state) has been Michael Ford (23 goals), Alex Reid (21) and Joshua Beshaw (14).
Their defense has given up just seven goals while OP’s has yielded nine. The Quakers have a balanced scoring attack led by sophomore Connor Saeli with six goals and six other players with four goals.
CLASS A-1 FINAL: No. 1 seed Williamsville East (18-0) plays rival and No. 3 Williamsville South for the title on Thursday in a battle of ECIC II teams.
The Flames beat South twice in the regular season but only 1-0 and 2-1 in overtime. East has given up only four goals this year.
In order to win, South will have to do something no other team has been able to accomplish. “We’d have to stop Brandon Schick,” said South coach Peter Sugg. “Brandon’s one of the best kids I’ve even seen. He’s very skilled and incredibly fast. We’ve only scored one goal against them in two games, so we would have to score a couple of goals.”
Schick has 35 goals while Ben Noel has chipped in with nine.
South’s senior midfielder Myles Taylor is a three-year starter who plays both ends of the field. He scored the lone goal in the Billies’ 1-0 win over Grand Island in the semifinals.
CLASS A-2 FINAL: Iroquois came from a No. 10 seed to reach Thursday’s final against No. 1 Riverside. The Chiefs finished in last place in ECIC II at 1-10-1. They take on a Riverside team that is unscored upon this season.
The Chiefs’ talent couldn’t have surfaced at a better time. They have won five of their last six games by shutout led by sophomore goalkeeper Matt Glowny. Senior forward Eric Herberger and Jack Smolarek are the top goal scorers.
The Frontiers look to junior Mohamed Musse (22 goals) and sophomore Hassan Sabtow (17).
CLASS B-2 SEMIFINALS: Thursday’s doubleheader at All High Stadium includes No. 2 Southwestern playing No. 6 Tonawanda at 5 p.m. followed by the No. 1 Lackawanna taking on defending champion and No. 4 Akron.
Akron’s Tigers returned just two senior starters from last year’s state final four team, but still finished 11-4-2. Their resume includes a big season-opening win over Class AA Baldwinsville. They finished a half-game behind Newfane for the Niagara-Orleans League title.
Russell Catalano has eight goals and 13 assists. Neil Friedman had a big senior year while Chris Mayrose has excelled at midfield/forward. Goalie Austin Medole has shut out his last three opponents giving him nine for the season.
CLASS C SEMIFINAL: This bracket features two state-ranked teams. Pioneer will host Thursday’s final four as No. 2 seed Maple Grove plays No. 11 Holland and I-Prep/Grover Cleveland is matched against No. 1 Randolph.
Randolph is ranked No. 11 in the state and won CCAA II with a 12-0 record. Maple Grove (16-1-1) is No. 12 in the state.
CLASS D SEMIFINALS: This three-team class opens postseason at Pioneer on Wednesday. No. 2 Ellicottville hosting No. 3 West Valley. The winner plays at No. 1 seed North Collins for the title on Friday back at Pioneer. North Collins is ranked No. 7 in the state.
CLASS AA SEMIFINALS: This final four includes three teams from ECIC I. No. 3 Williamsville North plays No. 2 Lockport followed by No. 5 Clarence taking on No. 1 Orchard Park today in Depew.
Clarence is coming off a shootout win at Niagara-Wheatfield last Friday. The Red Devils and Orchard Park split this season in a pair of one-goal games. Lockport won the Niagara Frontier League at 13-0-1. North already has a 3-1 win over Lockport, but it came during the Sept. 7-8 season-opening Lockport Tournament.
CLASS A SEMIFINALS: The top seeds held to form as Wednesday’s games include the Nos. 1-2-3-4 seeds.
No. 1 Williamsville East (13-3-2) plays No. 4 Hamburg (14-3). The teams split during two regular season meetings with East winning, 2-1, and Hamburg answering with a 4-3 victory. Tavia Allen leads the Flames in scoring with 18 goals and four assists.
No. 2 seed and defending champion Williamsville South plays No. 3 Grand Island. Two-time All-WNY pick Carissima Cutrona has scored 30 of her team’s 59 goals with 12 assists. The Vikings are led in scoring by eighth-grader Madison Pezzino with 27 goals. Williamsville East tied and beat South in their ECIC II contests.
CLASS B SEMIFINALS: No. 6 Akron plays No. 2 Springville while No. 9 Eden plays No. 5 Tonawanda today.
Springville features the Woodarek twins, Alena (23 goals) and Tiana (26 goals). The Griffins eliminated two-time defending champion Newfane, 3-1, in the quarters. Akron’s Paige Buscaglia (13 goals) leads a balanced scoring attack.
Eden, which knocked off No. 1 seed City Honors, has come from the No. 9 seed to contend for a title. Tonawanda had a huge win over state-ranked and Niagara-Orleans League champion Wilson, which entered the game 15-1-1.
CLASS C SEMIFINALS: Allegany-Limestone (12-2-1) plays deep into the sectionals every year. The Gators’ only losses and tie were nonleaguers to much bigger schools, North Tonawanda (Class A), Pioneer (Class A) and Newfane (Class B). They will need to draw on the experience of those games if they hope to beat undefeated Maple Grove (18-0) today at Pioneer. Courtney Vaughn has netted 11 goals and has 14 assists for A-L.
No. 6 seed and defending champion, Frewsburg, plays No. 2 seed Holland. The Bears lost two close ones to Maple Grove in CCAA II, 2-1 and 2-0. The Bears are led by Janessa Annis with 12 goals and seven assists.
Holland (15-2) is led by freshman Olivia Schmidt. She has 34 goals, including a season-high seven against Lackawanna. Her sister, Abby, has 17.
CLASS D FINAL: For the second year in a row North Collins and Ellicottville will meet for the title. The No. 1 seeded and defending champion Eagles survived a 1-0 win over West Valley in the semifinals. Ellicottville has won Class D three of the last five years.
Ellicottville isn’t shy when it comes to scheduling nonleaguers against bigger schools. With 138 students in grades 9-11 Ellicottville took on Orchard Park (1,171 students) and North Tonawanda (935). The Eagles (14-2-1) haven’t lost since Sept. 17, a 4-0 setback to Orchard Park.
Ellicottville is led by freshman Morgan Zlockie with 21 goals, including the game-winner vs. West Valley. Junior keeper Liz Wendel is tough to beat. North Collins counters with Emily Swiatkowski with 10 goals. “Morgan is a soccer player and a gifted athlete,” said coach Mary Neilon. “She was our leading scorer last year (16 goals). She’s fast and has a good touch on the ball.”
BOYS: St. Francis and Canisius meet for the crown at 2 p.m. on Sunday at St. Joe’s. St. Francis won two out of three games with the Crusaders this season. “We played seven overtime games, so we’re used to pressure,” said St. Francis coach Mike Smolinski. “We’re ready to go to work and we’ll be pushing them all week long.”
St. Francis (11-7-3) reaches it first final since 2008. Junior Sam Eggleston has eight goals while sophomore keeper Matthew Gabalski has six shutouts.
GIRLS NORTH DIVISION: Nichols, Nardin and Sacred Heart finished in a three-way tie for the regular season title with 8-2 records so it’s no surprise Nardin (13-5-0) will meet Sacred Heart (10-3) for the title at noon.
Sacred Heart (10-3) has reached the final in four of the last five years. “We’ve been there before, we got 10 seniors who know what it’s like to play in game of this magnitude,” said coach Amy Drozen “They want to go out on top doing something that’s never been accomplished in at least the last 10 years, if it’s ever been done at the school.”
Junior Remmi Zaepfel leads the Sharks with seven goals.
Nichols will be the site of this year’s Catholic State Championships on Nov. 10-11.
GIRLS SOUTH: Immaculata (6-7-2) will play Christian Central Academy (13-2-3) for the title at 10 a.m. Immaculata and CCA went to overtime in both of their regular season meetings.