Oct. 26—PLATTSBURGH — It's hard to beat a team three times. For the Spartans, that third win came in the biggest game of the season.
Saranac defeated Northeastern Clinton, 2-1, in the Section VII Class B Sectional Championship of girls soccer championship game, Wednesday.
"We are just such a team and everyone just sticks together," Spartan Leah Hamel said. "And it's just it's, we were just sticking together and it worked so well.
"Everyone was keeping each other motivated. I mean, we have captains. Well honestly, everyone's a captain. We just keep each other high up and it works out."
Saranac would need that belief to rally to win a close game that saw NCCS' Maddie Arno put her foot on the ball for the go-ahead goal, 26 seconds into the match.
It was oddly similar to the final tally of the game that saw a mad scramble in front of the net, this time with the Spartans trying to get it in while the Cougars tried to clear it.
In the chaos that ensued, no one knew exactly what was happening until the whistle blew signaling the goal, ending the game.
"I think my favorite part was that every single girl on that team was beyond elated," Saranac coach Amber Liberty said. "Nobody cared who scored. They weren't even sure who [the goal] went to.
"They did it together. I just kept telling them it's going to go in, it's going to go in. We had many chances."
The Spartans certainly had chances as they outshot the Cougars 12-2, but NCCS was staunch in holding off the pressure Saranac put on.
"They never gave up and they could have you know, they could have right away," Liberty said. "I mean, [NCCS] scored in the first 25 seconds. But, you know, that was our worst minute of the game.
"[The girls] came back and showed a lot of grit and I think going forward, you know, they'll have that in their back pocket knowing that hard work, even when you're down you can come back that way."
The Spartans would need to collect themselves and get back into the game early, as they struggled out of the gate.
Saranac's Mchenna Brown said the team was down on themselves for a bit, but came together to find victory.
"We just kept, we kept the energy up and we weren't letting anyone get down on themselves and that's what won us this game," Brown said. "We rallied together and won this for ourselves. When you're down like that, all you can do is push up through adversity."
The Spartans would do just that with the foot of Brown.
With 13 minutes remaining in the game, Brown rocketed the ball from just outside the 18-yard box past Cougars goalkeeper, Desiree DuBois.
"All we were doing was pushing and when I saw that open I just tried to let it rip," Brown said. "I saw the goalie go one way and it just worked out."
As NCCS attempted to regain the lead, Saranac continued its staunch defense to keep the ball mostly in midfield. That's where the ball stayed for a majority of the game as neither defense let the other gain momentum.
It continued that way until overtime when the Spartans increased the pressure, pushing for the game winner.
Hamel, credited with two assists, said on the last goal it was hectic in the box with everyone trying to get a foot on the ball. After the ball bounced against the crossbar Spartan Lily Brown nudged the ball across the goal line, confirmed by the sound of the referee's whistle.
When it blew one team broke into celebration while the other gathered to support each other.
"I could not be more proud of the girls," Liberty said. "I have to say NCCS played amazing. They wanted to win that game. They're very well coached and very skilled.
"We just never gave up. The girls just believed in each other and I just couldn't be more happy for every single one of them."
Not only was this the third victory of NCCS for Saranac, it was also their third straight Class B title. The Spartans also won the championship in the COVID restricted 2020 season.
Saranac now gets a bye in the state playoffs, playing Nov. 3, in a regional final. The Spartans will play the winner of the subregional game between Section X and Section II.
Liberty said while they'll celebrate briefly, the Spartans will soon get back to work.
"We've got time, which is to really take a look and see what adjustments we want to make," she said. and it's amazing, we're home. We're gonna be here with our fans. It's a great opportunity and we plan on taking advantage of it."
Saranac 2, Northeastern Clinton 1 OT
SCS 0 1 1 — 2
NCCS 1 0 0 — 1
First Half- 1. NCCS, Arno (Sebert), :26
Second Half- 2. SCS, M. Brown (Hamel), 27:33
First Overtime- 3. SCS, L. Brown (Hamel), 6:38
Shots- Saranac, 13-2
Saves- Jean-Pierre, SCS, 1. DuBois, NCCS, 11