If this is how the season is going to go for the Saugerties High varsity girls’ soccer team, prepare for a thrilling ride. The Sawyers hosted Onteora Monday, Sept. 12, winning 3-2 in overtime and already staking a claim as a team that doesn’t quit.
Rachel Gardner’s first half goal at 9:31 knotted the game at 1-1, and the Sawyers took the lead in the second half at 21:24 when Taylor Lynch converted with an assist from senior co-captain Christen Averill. That lead held up through most of the second half before Onteora’s Avery Serfis connected on her second goal of the game, a penalty kick. But while some teams might have crumbled after the late score by their opponent, the Sawyers did not.
The overtime goal came off the foot of sophomore striker and midfielder Torri Sperl, a game-winning conversion at 7:02 that put the Sawyers in a good position to open the season.
Sperl said she hopes to help turn this season into a special one for the senior players, many of whom she’s known and played with for years.
“I’ve been playing with these girls for over eight years now and I’m more than excited to be up on varsity playing with all of them for their last season,” Sperl said. “I know it’s their senior year and I know they all want to win, as do I, and we will do whatever it takes to finish this season strong. This year you will see us all walk onto the field in our Saugerties Sawyers uniforms with a positive attitude and ready to win it all.”
Sperl is in her first year on the varsity team, where she joins veterans of Coach Tim Miron’s program like Averill, a center midfielder, as well as Ashleigh Peterson, the new regular goalkeeper who helped the Sawyers preserve the win. Averill said she liked the idea of having Peterson in the goal this year.
“Once coach made the final decision on the varsity team for this season, I was very excited,” she said. “He chose Ashleigh Peterson as the starting goal keeper. The way Ashleigh played in tryouts and in our first couple of practices got the entire team excited. She is somewhat new to the position, but she is a great athlete and is not afraid to dive for anything. When our team sees the intensity Ashleigh brings to practice we all pick up on it and I feel like that has helped us all improve early on.”
The wet August that ended with the arrival of Hurricane Irene meant the Sawyers’ standard pre-season practice and scrimmage routine was upended this year. A scrimmage against Kingston was all the team was able to manage.
“They showed us we have many improvements to make,” Averill said. “But the overtime game against Onteora tonight was definitely a good way to start of the season and hopefully we continue to improve and win more games.”
With the division being shaken up this season, the Sawyers know they have an uphill battle, but they’re also aware that in order to be the best, they’ll have to beat the best.
“Our entire division is pretty tough this year with the addition of Red Hook,” Averill said. “We know that they are tough and we know that Wallkill is always tough as well, but I would say our team’s chief rival this season is probably FDR because they beat us at home (last season) and then we had a late goal to beat them on their turf.”
The good news for the Sawyers is that they’ll have plenty of time to keep momentum going and work on improving before they face any of the teams Averill mentioned. The end of the season is a brutal six-game stretch that begins with a home contest against Red Hook and ends with the team hosting both FDR and Wallkill. In the middle of that run are three games on the road against those same rivals. If the Sawyers have any hope of being in a position to make an impact in the playoffs, they’ll have to close out the season with the same kind of intensity they had to close out the Onteora game.
For now, though, the Sawyers are taking the season one game at a time rather than worrying about what the future holds.
“I would love for our team to make it to sectionals again this year,” Averill said. “It would be great to win a sectional game to advance to the next round but that’s too far in the future for now. I’m just hoping for a great season with some big wins against tough competition which will hopefully result in a chance to compete in sectionals.”
“Every game is just as important as the next,” she said.
The Sawyers hosted Highland on Wednesday, September 14 after the Saugerties Times went to press. They hit the road for the first time on Friday, September 16 when they battle Rondout Valley. Of the team’s 12 regular season games, seven are scheduled to be played in Saugerties. Whether that slight home pitch advantage makes a difference remains to be seen.
The Sawyers will continue to try and become an even better team, never getting too comfortable after a win and not letting losses drag them down. The camaraderie both on and off the pitch could play a key role in the season going well.
“We truly have an amazing team when it comes to personality and attitude and I love playing with everyone,” Averill said. “The majority of the team who I had grown up playing with all graduated last year, but I knew the group of 11th graders and even the 10th graders had a lot of talent and I was very excited going into the season knowing that I was getting to opportunity to play with them.”
As for Averill’s hopes for the team before the season got underway, they’re certainly not unrealistic given the Sawyers’ talent and drive.
“My biggest goal going into the season was to just be a good team leader and be able to help my teammates on and off the field,” she said. “As a team, I would love for us to be able to utilize all the talent we have and piece it together and make it to sectionals. I know we have it in us; it’s just a matter of proving it.”