HOMER, N.Y. (NEWS10) -- It's a special thing to win back-to-back section titles, which the Waterford-Halfmoon girls soccer team did two weeks ago with a victory over Stillwater. But to claim back-to-back state titles is legacy-type stuff. And this year's Fordians squad etched their name in the Waterford-Halfmoon record books Sunday afternoon.
Meghan Reynolds' bunch battled with Section IX's Mount Academy to a 2-2 double-overtime tie in the Class C state championship game played out at Homer High School. No goals were scored in the two 15-minute, sudden death OT periods, and penalty kicks are not held in the championship round, so the two sides were declared co-champions - the second straight year Waterford has claimed at least a share of the title; they won outright last year.
Finishing the season with a tie in the final game took some steam out of the Fordians' celebration, and the mood wasn't what you'd expect from a team that just claimed its second straight Class C crown, especially when they were trailing by a goal with just three minutes to play in regulation.
But that speaks to the winning mentality this Waterford team possesses, which has instilled a great deal of pride in their head coach.
"I think the biggest sorrow is that we're losing 10 seniors, and we just love those girls so much; they've been the heart of this team for so long," said Reynolds. "I think they're very thrilled to be state champions back-to-back."
The Fordians came out as the aggressors against a Mount Academy unit that won the previous two Class D state titles before making the move to C ahead of this season. Even with the move, the Eagles entered the match with an undefeated, 20-0 record.
And yet, not even three minutes into the matchup, senior Addyson Galuski collected a long pass down the right sideline from senior Imani Bloomfield. Galuski delivered a perfectly-placed shot on the far side of the goal that found the back of the net to put the Fordians ahead 1-0.
Waterford senior goalkeeper Maddy Atwood, meanwhile, played a brilliant game in net. She came up with two crucial denials of Mount Academy's Brooke Huleatt in the 14th and 28th minutes that kept the Eagles off the board for the time being.
But the Fordians were only able to keep Huleatt, the Mount Academy star, at bay for so long. With the game tied at one, and with just 24 seconds remaining before halftime, Huleatt converted from inside the box with a quick touch off a pass from Alanna Maendel. That gave the Eagles a 2-1 edge at the break.
Mount Academy came out in the second half on the defensive, looking to maintain the one-goal advantage. That strategy proved fruitful for about 93% of the half, if my math's correct.
With just over three minutes left on the game clock, Galuski got a run in down the life sideline, and fired a shot that Mount Academy keeper Corah Boller had to lay out to deter. Waterford's Mia O'Brien corralled the ball on the goal line, and passed it to a charging Riley Noto. The eighth grader ripped of the shot of her young career, which sailed over the head of Boller, and found the back-left corner of the net, tying the game at two at the 2:56 mark of the second half.
The teams went back-and-forth in the first overtime period, but Waterford was given a red card in the waning seconds of the period, and was forced to play a man down for the entirety of the second overtime.
The Fordians' defense buckled down, however, and another 15 minutes expired without a goal, bringing a thrilling match to a relatively anti-climactic conclusion.
It was a far more favorable conclusion, though, than it appeared Waterford was headed for. And that would not have been possible without the late-game heroics of Noto, and a host of other underclassmen, who Galuski was sure to thank for helping the senior captain end her high school career on the highest of notes.
"Honestly, we couldn't have done this without every single one of our players working hard every day," said Galuski. "Us seniors owe it to the younger kids. They really busted their butts today. They really picked up on a big challenge. We had some young girls in our starting lineup, and coming off the bench. They work, and they give it their all for us."
The resolve the Fordians showed in the late stages of the match was something Reynolds has grown accustomed to seeing out of her group.
"That shows the heart and soul of this team - from the start of the season to the absolute last second. I love this team so much, and they truly deserve this."
Waterford-Halfmoon concludes its season with an overall record of 19-1-3.