CALEDONIA – The Frewsburg girls returned to familiar territory Saturday evening.
The Bears were playing in their fourth straight Group C Far West Region.
And this time, Scott Stone felt like his team was going over a hump.
It wasn’t meant to be.
Holley’s Samantha Bates scored the only two goals in the game as the Hawks advanced to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association final four in program history with a 2-0 shutout at Frewsburg.
To be honest, I don’t know what to say. It’s amazing. That’s the big cherry on top,” said Holley head coach Renee Wolf. “I knew she could do it because she just believed she could do it. I have a group of girls here who believed they could do it.”
The Bears, winners of seven Section VI tournaments, have now advanced to the regional stage just once in six tries. In 2009, they failed in the state semifinals and in 2020, the state playoffs were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“No matter what, we come here to win,” Stone said. “Our goal since the beginning of the year is to win the state championship and we failed. We all feel that way.”
Frewsburg was already behind the No. 8 ball entering Saturday at Caledonia-Mumford High School’s Hamilton Field, having lost three players — senior Aleah Bjork and freshmen Jadyn Trocki and Audrey Eckwahl — to injuries following practice in last week’s win over Wilson.
“You want to have all the power, but we don’t want to start making excuses,” Stone said. “We have 23 players on this team and the girls who stepped up in their place were capable. It just didn’t go our way.”
The Bears’ offensive chances were few and far between all night against Holley, which upset two-time Section V champion Byron-Bergen in their Class C crossover game midweek.
“We were underdogs against Bergen. No one expected us to win,” said Nkhandwe. “I think we came here and maybe people thought we were underdogs because Frewsburg is here.”
The Hawks built all the confidence they needed on Saturday with an early goal.
The ball was lifted into the 18-yard box as eighth-grader Holley Hanna Ostrom landed with her chest on Bates’ feet. Entering the game with 29 goals on the season, Bates fired a shot past Frewsburg’s eighth-grader Elysse Gruber.
“It seemed like we were all in a good place and the ball just came,” Stone said. ” … When he gets the ball he is alone so he will finish it. A bit of a fall, but we knew he was going to get one. “
The 1-0 lead lasted 69 minutes.
“Sometimes we have to have a goal to feel good about to keep pushing harder. He did that,” Wolf said. ” … I think they really want it. This is their drive and I am very proud of them. “
The Hawks were adept at sticking together throughout the game, but it was difficult to find a final threat thanks to Frewsburg seniors Addison Hultberg, Gracie Conlan and Molly Spontaneo, who were joined by junior Kaylee Cappa in the back row.
“Many people did not believe in this team. “We lost a couple of games that we didn’t think we would lose,” said Stone. ” … The group was unmoved. They are just a group of fighters.”
The Bears were able to win several corners midway through the second half, but were unable to connect on the tying field goal.
“We felt like we made some mistakes late in the game. We needed multiple angles and multiple opportunities,” Stone said. “They’re very good in space, credit to them.”
With the clock ticking down to under 10 minutes, Holley began to take control and hit a three-pointer that cost more than two minutes of the Bears’ comeback time.
“We’ve seen a lot of games where they’ve changed quickly. That happened last time between Keshequa and Bergen,” Wolf said. . . . We knew we had to play hard until the end.
Finally, when desperation began, Frewsburg brought down Bates inside the 18-yard box which led to a penalty kick.
“I have full confidence in all of my PK picks,” Wolf said.
Bates, the Hawks’ top scorer, fired a soft shot into the corner of the goal to provide all the insurance his team would need for next week’s trip to Cortland.
“I knew what I had from the beginning. These girls have been working together for a long time, since they were in the 7th grade,” said Nkhandwe. “I knew they had it in terms of talent … they just needed to push each other and believe in each other.”