Elmira Express boys soccer advances to STAC final for first time with 2-0 win over Oneonta
Andrew Legare, Elmira Star-Gazette
Goals from Cameron Kelly-Hobbs and Noah Sperduto carried the Elmira Boys soccer team to his first appearance in the Souther Tier Athletic Conferece championship game with a 2-0 victory over Oneonta on Saturday afternoon at Ernie Davis Academy.
Kelly-Hobbs scored off a Sperduto assist with 30 minutes, 20 seconds left in the opening half. Sperduto's goal with 7:56 to play was assisted by Kelly-Hobbs.
We came out really, really strong, created two or three really full opportunities in the first couple of minutes and got a goal out of it," Elmira coach Derek Hamilton said. "I thought we were unlucky not to get another one."
"However, that last 60 minutes of the game I thought was played pretty even. Oneonta's a pretty good team and you could tell they're used to getting some victories. The kept pressing. Even when we took that 2-0 lead with eight minutes to go, they were still on us. They weren't going to give up."
Oneonta suffered it's first loss, dropping to 13-1.
Elmira (10-2-2) will face Vestal (12-3) in the championship game at 7 pm Tuesday at Vestal's Dick Hoover Stadium. The game had been tentatively scheduled for Monday, but it was moved back a day because of stadium availability.
Elmira is seeking the school district's first STAC title in boys soccer since Hamilton's Elmira Free Academy team won in 2008.
Five things you need to know from this game:
Kelly-Hobbs Provided a Quick Boost
Kelly-Hobbs put home a hard shot that deflected off Oneonta goalkeeper Brad Morell for his third goal of the season.
"Cam made a great late run through the midfield and got in behind the last defender," Hamilton said. "Noah put it on his foot and Cam did the very difficult job of still finishing it with the goalkeeper breathing down his neck. Fantastic."
Sperduot Struck Again
Sperduto's goal came after he beat two Oneonta defenders to get enough space to squeeze the ball into the net. It was his 21st goal for the fourth-team all-state pick from last season. Hamilton said even with Oneonta double-teaming him often Saturday, Sperduto was his typical impactful presence.
"Oneonta knew exactly what they were going to have to deal with with him and he still created our first goal, which just shows his unselfishness," Hamilton said.
Burrows Was Strong In Net
Elmira also had a strong game in the back third, with Oneonta coming up with some quality chances to even the score before Spreduto's goal. The last man back was goalkeeper Nate Burrows. Hamilton said goalie can often be a thankless job, with one goal allowed providing more visibility than 10 saves. On Saturday, Hamilton was thankful for the job Burrows did.
"We called on him two or three times today and he came up big all two or three times," Hamilton said. "He kept us in the lead and that's what we needed out of him today."
Baldwin Provided Help to Back End
Another key for Elmira was moving midfielder Luke Baldwin to centerback with about 15 minutes remaining. Hamilton described Baldwin as a "wild card" for the team, offering another top offensive force along with Sperduto, while also having the versatility to play all over the field.
"With 15 minutes to go, we were holding that lead, Oneonta looks like they're pressing a bit," Hamilton said. "We move him back to centerback and he is just a calming influence for us. He wins everything in the air and it's nice to be able to rely on him, as well as Zach (Odum), Max Odom, Anthony Manzari, Jakub Ziembicki, as well as Nate Burrows. They're just a solid back five and six when we play them."
Win Sets Up Rematch
Elmira opened the season with a 3-2 victory on the road over Vestal, which last season went unbeaten and won the Class A state championship. Hamilton expects the Golden Bears will be primed for a rematch.
"Vestal's a great team," Hamilton said. "They've only lost one other STAC game, that was to Maine-Endwell. We were lucky enough to knock them off game one. I'm sure they've been circling that on their schedule. As soon as they knew we had a chance to meet them in the game, I'm sure they'd want to see us to avenge that loss."