MEDINA — With the way the Buffalo Sabres have been playing, the case can be made that the best hockey team in the Buffalo area belongs to Barker — and its hockey team plays outdoors and consists of high school girls.
Barker was the only girls field hockey team from Section VI to move past the Far West Regionals, as it beat East Rochester, 1-0, to move on to the Class C state semifinals.
In the other two state quarterfinal games, Amherst lost its Class B contest to Brighton, 2-0, and Clarence lost its Class A game to Fairport, 3-2 in overtime.
Barker (16-1) was able to move on to its second consecutive state semifinal as sophomore Erin Greenwald finished a one-timer from Gabriella Clare with 5:54 left in the game. Clare transitioned the ball 20 yards into the circle and neatly passed it across for Greenwald to finish.
“I didn’t know whether to take a shot or to dribble it in,” Clare said. “And then I just crossed it in, and I was like ‘Please score’ and she did and I couldn’t believe it. I was so excited.”
“I was just there at the right time,” Greenwald said.
The Lady Red Raiders have lost in the state semis two of the past three years, but Clare thinks this year could be different.
“We’ve played so much better than this,” she said. “So if we play to our full potential, and talk, I definitely feel like we could do so well.”
Barker moves on to play Section III winner Cazenovia in the state semis Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Cicero-North Syracuse High School.
Clarence, which won its first Section VI girls field hockey title since 1985, was down by 2-1 with 12 minutes left. Then Giovanna Fasanello scored for the Red Devils, receiving a penalty-corner pass in the circle, then spinning around and blasting a backhand past Fairport goalie Sara Cook to tie the game at 2.
“I knew as soon as Gigi scored off that corner I knew the momentum would shift back our way. That’s how we do it,” Clarence first-year head coach Beth Brawn said about coming back late. “We’ve dug ourselves out of holes before, but today wasn’t our day.”
In overtime with the play moving to seven-on-seven, Fasanello, who scored the Red Devils’ first goal, had a chance to tally again early on when left one-on-one with Cook, but missed her shot wide. Back came Fairport, and Casey Luke was able to score her second of the game. She knocked home the game-winning goal after a scramble in front of Clarence goalie Lauren Mortek.
Amherst (19-1) had its chances, but like in ice hockey, a hot goalie can prove to be the difference.
Brighton goalie Veronica Verstraten stood on her head during the second half, making 10 saves including a pair of diving stops, to stone Amherst attacker Lacey Woite on separate occasions off penalty corners.
“I definitely think their goalie was the difference in the game,” said Amherst coach Laurie LeGoff. “We had far more opportunities and her, along with her defense, played very well and were able to hold up.”
Brighton took a 1-0 lead on a fine three-on-two transition play which saw Keeley Samsonik put home a pass from Emma Nilsson with 8:04 left in the first half. Then in the first minute of the second half, Brighton took the opening pass-back right down the field, where Emilie Goldman hit a hard, low shot in the corner of the cage for a 2-0 lead.
But beyond that opening minute of the second half, Amherst generated enough opportunities to not only score, but win the game.
The Lady Tigers had an 8-1 penalty-corner advantage, and a 10-3 shot advantage in the second half.
“We generated a ton of attack, but again, credit to their defense and goalie for putting back everything we kept shooting at them,” LeGoff said.