On the cold weekend of Nov. 16-17 in Cortland, the Monroe-Woodbury Crusaders won their second consecutive New York State Public High School Class AA Championship.
The Crusaders, always a formidable soccer force, have flourished the past four years under the guidance of head coach Bill Mpasiakos, with a record of 73-6-3, four Section 9 titles, three regional and two state championships.
The team advanced to the final four this year by winning its seventh consecutive Section 9 title. The Crusaders then beat a tough North Rockland team 3-0 in the regional championship game in Goshen on Nov. 9.
So on a sunny cold Saturday they took the field to face the the Section 6 Champions the Red Devils of Clarence in the state semifinal. The Red Devils took the lead in the first half when Anevay Rice took a corner kick that sailed just over the the hands of a leaping Angela Fini and somehow found the corner of the net.
The Crusaders were able stabilize the situation, and just before the half they served notice to the Red Devils when Kaelyn Salatto got open and from 15 yards out hit a shot that would have gone through the net if it had been lower. Near the beginning of the second half, the Devils hit a shot off the crossbar, but Fini was able to control the rebound.
From then on, the game changed.
The Crusaders took over, pushing the play into the Devils zone and turning up the pressure. They finally broke through when Josephine Sorce led Kayla Harvey with a perfect pass, and she cut in front of her defender and made a beautiful sliding kick just past the outreached hands of the goalie to tie the score.
As the ball rolled into the net, the Crusaders exploded. From that point on, it was all Crusaders.
The Crusaders then hit the crossbar of the goal post and scored what appeared to be the go-ahead goal by Emily Dovico, but it was ruled offside. As the clock rolled under 2 minutes, Salatto hit a quick pass to a wide-open Alexis Deleo, who hammered it into the net to give the Crusaders a huge comeback win in the semifinal.
On Sunday, the wind had picked up and the temperature had dropped a little as the Crusaders took the field to face the Hornets of Fayetteville-Manlius for the state championship.
The Section 3 Champs, like the Crusaders, came into the game with a 19-1 record. The Hornets put a lot pressure on the Crusaders' defense early, but even when they were able to get a shot off senior and four-year starter Angela Fini, they came up with one big save after another.
The two teams battled to a scoreless tie at the end of the first half. The Crusaders came out in the second half and began to control the play against a very good Hornets team. The Crusaders finally broke through when Katherine Mullins took the ball from a Hornet defender and fed it to Josephine Sorce, who was breaking down the middle and hit it into the corner of the net to give the Crusaders the lead.
The Hornets were not done. They battled back, but the Crusaders' back wall of Teyha Harvey, Kayla Bauer, Kiley Metcalf and Gabrielle Mpasiakos kept them to the outside.
But even when they got through, goalie Angela Fini, who might have saved her best game for last, shut them down.
The Crusaders finished the season with a 20-1 record and have captured the state title for the second consecutive year.
Head coach Bill Mpasiakos and assistant coach Kate Santoianni will have the Crusaders ready for next season as they will return with another strong core of veteran players.