YORKTOWN HEIGHTS - A run to a state championship typically works opposite the experience Rye's girls soccer team is going through. These games are supposed to get more challenging, not more one-sided.
There was little suspense in Rye's comfortable 3-0 win over Section 9's Cornwall yesterday in the Class A regional final. Rye (16-4-1) worked its usual formula to perfection, getting two goals from Alex Rimmer, one from Lia Bellizzi, tremendous support from the rest of its field players, and flawless goalkeeping from Tatiana Saunders to soundly defeat an opponent that entered the game 20-0.
Rye's games in the playoffs all seem to have a similar quality to them with its team peaking at exactly the right time. It has shut out every opponent in the playoffs, outscoring teams 11-0 during this four-game run and Rimmer and Bellizzi have accounted for every goal.
"I'm very proud of the effort and the way we played together, which is our motto," Rye coach Rich Savage said. "We have come a long way."
Indeed, they have. Rye actually entered the postseason losing two of its last four games and is now just two wins away from a state championship. The Garnets will play Section 3's Cortland at 11:45 a.m. on Friday in the state semifinals at Tompkins CC.
Rye's first two goals yesterday weren't pretty, but in a game played through a downpour, controlling the ball and stringing together several passes was virtually impossible as the ball would skip five yards every time it hit the drenched turf with any degree of speed.
Rimmer scored Rye's first two goals, taking advantage of a mislay by Cornwall's goalkeeper both times, but it was to be expected with a slippery ball. On both goals, Rimmer took a ball that came free and knocked it into the open net.
The first goal came 14 minutes into the game and the second just three minutes into the second half.
"It's expected that a goalie will have some trouble making saves if it's raining so I was ready just in case that happened," Rimmer said.
"She's always in the right place and knows how to finish," Savage said. "We count on her."
The two goals, along with Bellizzi'e goal in the final minute, were more than enough, especially with the way Rye's defense and Saunders have been playing of late. She's made difficult saves look easy and been sure-handed at all moments. With each game, the confidence and performance just improves.
"We just feel so united right now and believe we are going to do it," Saunders said. "You feel nervous because you're playing against these great teams, but we're playing better too. Our focus keeps changing. First it was to win the section, then it was to advance upstate, and now we can think about going upstate and winning the whole thing."