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High school soccer: IHC wins Section 3 title

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CHITTENANGO — A long-awaited triumph and some revenge was sweet for the Immaculate Heart Central boys soccer team Friday night.

Senior Justin Frechette and junior JP McClusky scored in each half and junior goalkeeper Jarrod Smith made nine saves as the second-seeded Cavaliers stunned top-seeded Poland with a 2-0 victory to claim Section 3’s Class D championship at Chittenango High School.

“It was a great win for us,” IHC coach Mary Guyette said. “We were here last year in the same situation, playing Poland. And I know that’s been in my mind since the end of last season — I don’t think a day has gone by that I haven’t thought about that game.”

The night was also a historic one for the school as IHC (15-3-1) secured its first sectional crown in boys soccer since 1988.

A year after losing a heartbreaker to the Tornadoes (17-1) in the sectional final, this time the Cavaliers returned the favor by shutting out the No. 1-ranked team in the state in Class D.

“It’s huge because we lost to them last year with seven seconds left in overtime and it devastated us,” said Smith of last year’s 3-2 loss to Poland. “So when we came out today, we were going for vengeance and we really wanted this win.”

IHC advances to state regional play and will face an opponent from Section 4 next week at a date and time to be announced.

“(Last year) was very heartbreaking and we definitely should have won,” Guyette continued, “So this whole season was just about getting back here and proving to everyone in Class D that we’re the top team and I think we’ve proven that all season long.

“Tonight they played exceptionally well against a very good Poland team.”

Frechette helped spark the Cavaliers by scoring the eventual game winner in the 32nd minute by tallying his first goal of the season.

“I’ve been there a few times this season and have been close,” Frechette said. “It’s a great feeling to finally be able to score, especially in a game which means so much.”

The senior took a through pass from Jude Fusilli, dribbled the ball in close and drove a shot past goalie Mitch Jones with 8:41 left in the first half.

“I’m so happy he finished it off and it was what we needed,” Guyette said of Frechette. “ I’m really happy he got that goal because he’s been working hard all season.”

Smith, who was named the tournament’s co-MVP along with Jones, helped keep the Tornadoes at bay by recording his 11th shutout of the season.

“He came up big when we needed him to come up big,” Guyette said of Smith. “He came out and punched a few balls away and just made some big saves for us.”

After robbing Poland’s leading scorer Ross Agen in the closing minutes of the first half, Smith was just as sharp in the final 40 minutes.

“I was just hoping my defense was going to stay together, focus and persevere,” Smith said. “And they did just that — I’m really proud of them.”

While the Cavaliers’ possession game and defense limited the Tornadoes’ chances after halftime, Smith ranged out from his net and dove to break up and corral a pass from Agen with 32 1/2 minutes remaining in regulation.

Smith also came way out and knocked the ball away from Agen with 20 minutes remaining.

Just moments after Fusilli closed in and drilled a shot off the right goal post, McClusky followed with the back-breaking tally in the second half in the 68th minute.

On the ensuing corner kick from Chris Rowland, McClusky headed in the ball into the far left corner of the net with 12:07 remaining in the game.

“The second goal was the dagger,” Fusilli said. “And after that we were just trying to play smart and trying to keep the ball out of our end and away from our goal. ... this is the game we wanted most.”

Guyette also credited her team’s defense, including Jared Pignone and Jason Reape, who combined to shut down Poland’s top two scoring threats in Agen and Mark Hennings, as well as IHC sweeper Pat Gefell.

“We shut down their top two guys, who are both very good strikers and very dangerous players,” Guyette said. “I think defensively, we did a great job on them. ... We also wanted to get a little more defensive minded when we got up 2-0 and we did that as well.”

IHC, which is ranked No. 15 in the state in Class D in the latest poll, will now set its sights on state regional play.

“I’m just so happy for them,” Guyette said. “They’ve been working so hard for many, many years. This is a special group of boys. They’ve been playing together for a very long time.”

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