After two quick goals, it seemed the top-seeded Iroquois High School girls field hockey team was about to cruise back to the Section VI championship game. Underdog Williamsville East had other ideas and got even in the blink of an eye.
In the end, the powerhouse Chiefs will advance but the Flames made them work for a hard-fought 4-2 win in the Class B sectional semifinals on Wednesday night at Williamsville North High School.
“We had our energy up in the beginning but then we kind of let down a little bit,” co-captain Ella Sturm said. “We kind of saw that and we had to regroup and get our focus back on. We don’t want this season to be over yet and we’re just trying to keep going. We’ve worked so hard to get to this point, we want to keep going.”
The Chiefs will keep going – advancing to next Thursday’s championship game against Pioneer.
After a quarterfinal win on Tuesday, Williamsville East promised to be competitive against the powerful Chiefs and held true to their word, shaking off a tough start to turn a potential blowout into a nail-biter. But in the end, the Chiefs showed why they’re a power year in and year out.
“They’re a No. 1 seed for a reason,” said East coach Erin Rajczak, who played for Iroquois coach Pete Tonsoline for Scholastic Empire. “They never rebuild, they always reload. I totally respect him, I’ve known him since high school. He’s built a fantastic program and those girls, they do the right thing every time. You can’t get away with any mistake with them because they capitalize on them.”
Riley DeGrace and Quinn Wierzbowski scored early to give the top-seeded Chiefs a quick lead. But East had an answer as sophomore Courtney McClay scored two late in the first half for the equalizer.
“We were ready to go but they’re a team that is very quick and I was worried about that. Their stick skills on turf are far superior to us because we’re a grass team but we work to try to compensate for that, ” said Tonsoline.
Sturm scored with 23:27 left in the second half to give Iroquois the lead. DeGrace scored again to extend the Iroquois lead to two goals.
“We really had to keep our energy up,” DeGrace said. “We’re a really close team and when one of us gets going it picks the rest of us up.”
“My girls played with a lot of heart. Even when we got down two with seven minutes left they were saying, ‘We scored two in less than seven minutes, let’s do it again.’ They played the full 60 minutes and I couldn’t be prouder of them,” said East coach Erin Rajczak.
Pioneer advanced to the finals with a 2-1 win over Williamsville South.
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