Barker field hockey upends East Rochester in state quarterfinal
By Kevin Prise The Journal-Register
MEDINA — With under seven minutes remaining in Saturday afternoon’s Class C state quarterfinal field hockey matchup, Barker junior Gabby Clare knew she had to make something happen. Despite many earlier scoring opportunities by the Lady Raiders, the East Rochester defense came up with big stops time and again, and the game was still scoreless.
Until Clare made one of the plays of the year in local high school sports, taking possession of the ball near midfield and driving into the offensive zone with a crafty series of juke moves past East Rochester defenders. About 10 feet in front of the net, Clare fed a crisp crossing pass to sophomore Erin Greenwald, who didn’t miss a beat.
Greenwald’s goal put Barker up 1-0, and the Lady Raiders defense held tough the rest of the way. The 1-0 shutout victory over East Rochester at the Veterans Park turf in Medina sends Barker to the Class C state semifinals, where they will face Cazenovia at 3:30 p.m. this Saturday at Cicero-North Syracuse High School in Cicero.
“Going down, I didn’t know whether to take a shot or to dribble it in,” Clare said. “After I crossed it to Erin, I was thinking, ‘Please score,’ and then she did, and I couldn’t believe it. I was so excited.”
“She held it just long enough to draw that defender,” Barker head coach Jeff Costello said. “It left Erin open on the other side, and Erin has come up with some big goals for us this year. It’s exhilarating.”
Before Greenwald’s late tally, the story of the day was plenty of scoring opportunities for the Lady Raiders, but no goals. With a vocal contingent of fans rooting the team on, Barker rebounded from a lull midway through the first half to dominate possession throughout most of the second half. Costello urged the team continuously to possess the ball and draw penalty corners, and the Barker team responded with plenty of penalty corner opportunities, while limiting East Rochester’s offensive chances.
“We’ve been giving up penalty corners at different times during the year, and we only gave up three today,” Costello said. “You don’t want to give them up against this team, because they’re solid on corners and always have been. Defensively, I thought our kids played really, really well.”
But only seconds before Barker broke into the transition that led to Greenwald’s goal, Lady Raiders goalie Caitlyn Mason made a clutch kick save on a golden opportunity in front of the net by East Rochester. It appeared as if Mason could have been beat, but she quickly got into position to make the save.
Moments later, Clare made her moves, and it was Barker instead that got on the scoreboard.
“I thought our girls did a great job keeping up the attack,” Costello said. “We didn’t capitalize until we got that goal, but we had a lot of opportunities to score.”
Costello also wanted to credit senior captain and first-team All-Niagara-Orleans League player Heather Mason for playing another strong game, helping the Lady Raiders control possession throughout the second half and putting her team in position to win.
“Heather Mason is playing out of her mind,” Costello said. “She had another great game, and her best field hockey has all been coming during the playoffs right now. She had a lot of nice stops.”
The Lady Raiders are building quite the program, with this being the team’s second consecutive trip to the state semifinal round and third in the past four seasons. Some players don’t even think they have played their best field hockey yet.
As Costello and the team posed for triumphant pictures afterward, smiles were all around — as well as a sense of belief that this coming weekend’s trek out to Syracuse could bring even more memories.
“I’m pumped,” Greenwald said after the game. “On my goal, I was just right there at the right time.”
“I’m so excited; I’m so happy,” Clare added. “We had so many shots on goal, so I knew it was coming. I’m just happy to get another chance to try to win it. If we play to our full potential next weekend, we can do so well.”