The Clarence Red Devils rolled into their Section VI Class AA title game against the Lancaster Lancers on Saturday looking to win their seventh consecutive sectional title.
To do so, the team needed to solve the riddle otherwise known as Western New York’s best goalkeeper in Shealyn Vanderbosch. It took some work to do it, but the Red Devils came away with a 2-0 win and were crowned champions once again.
“Vanderbosch is the best goalkeeper in Western New York, but even the top goalkeepers in the world can be beat, and if you play the game right you can beat them,” coach Matt Andrews said. “You watch the EPL every single weekend and you’ll see guys who can do anything in this world as a goalkeeper, and they can get beat. It’s about playing team soccer in the end, and top to bottom our 11 players were better today.”
Throughout the first half of play Clarence dominated the pace of the game, but Vanderbosch kept giving the Lancers a fighting chance with several dazzling saves. That continued into the second half until Samantha Payne broke through on a goal to give the Red Devils a 1-0 lead, and Kailey O’Brien sealed the deal by scoring on a penalty kick shortly afterwards.
“Both goals were well-deserved,” Andrews said. “The pattern they played to get the first goal was something we worked on for 45 minutes last night because we knew it was something that would work. And they just stuck to the plan and to what we’ve done all year – work as hard as we can and play as much good, quality soccer as we possibly can. We felt lucky to be playing soccer and happy to play soccer every day.”
In net for the Red Devils was sophomore Emily McLouth, and she and the rest of Clarence’s defenders were a big factor in the team’s success throughout the 2020 season, according to Andrews.
“We’ve basically not given up a goal with our top defense on the field the entire season, and they’re just very organized,” Andrews said. “They’re kids who want to play for each other and want to play together. Although we have standout players, when it comes to defending we defend as an entire group. You could see that in the last 15 minutes, everybody across the field was trying to pressure the ball just to be able to close out a win that they’ve been looking forward to all year.”
In a normal season, Clarence would have been afforded the chance to move on to the state tournament and pit themselves against the rest of New York’s best teams. Due to COVID-19, however, they won’t be able to get that chance, but Andrews believed that despite the circumstances he and the rest of his roster accomplished everything that they had set out to do.
“It’s been a challenging year,” Andrews said. “I received the job just 24 hours before the season started. I was sitting down for a Bills game on a Sunday when I found out the job was open, and on Monday when I got to school I realized that I have a lot of college coaching experience and high school coaching experience and I teach at the school here, so I decided to see if they want me to do it.
“They said yes, and I got the job at our board meeting as an interim and we started tryouts the next day. These guys gave me everything they had every second of every day, and I couldn’t ask for a better group.”