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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, November 3, 2011

Voorheesville battles sleet, snow, and the evils of soccer

By Jordan J. Michael

VOORHEESVILLE –– Soccer can be a cruel, cruel game. Sometimes, a team can control a match, but still lose.

The Blackbirds battled sleet, snow, and the vagaries of soccer during its Class C first-round contest at home against Schoharie. Heavy snow was accumulating on the ground in Voorheesville last Thursday as the game went into overtime, tied at 1 to 1.

Three minutes into the overtime period, senior Colin Prendergast was taken down by an Indians’ player, and a discussion between players and the referees ensued. Prendergast thought he had been taken down inside the penalty box, but the referees couldn’t see the boundaries because snow was covering up the white lines on the field.

“You could see my body print in the box,” Prendergast said of Thursday’s debacle after Voorheesville lost in double overtime on Friday. “It should have been a penalty kick. Then, play stops and the entire attitude changes.”

The ball in the final moments of Thursday’s play seemed to be placed right on the penalty box line for a free kick. Senior David Suozzo took the kick for the Birds, but the ball deflected off of a Schoharie player, just wide of the goal. Voorheesville was granted a corner kick, but it would have to wait until Friday afternoon.

 “Just when you think you’ve seen it all,” Blackbirds’ Head Coach Willie Sanchez said after play was suspended on Thursday. “I’ve seen games with snow, but I’ve never seen one called off like that. Why didn’t the refs just stop play before overtime started?”

When play resumed on Friday, the sun was out. This was vastly different from the snow, sleet, and freezing cold of the day before. It felt like the game was starting from scratch, but it was three minutes into sudden-death overtime.

“It’s always fun to play in crazy conditions like that,” said Suozzo, who evened the game with a textbook header off a cross from Prendergast with 15 minutes left in regulation play on Thursday. He was the only Blackbird player wearing short sleeves.

Voorheesville was the better team on both days, controlling possession and frequently threatening Schoharie’s goal. However, the Indians, the defending Class C champion, had senior goalkeeper Brenden Archer, who robbed many of the Birds’ chances.

Head Coach Will Bevins laid into his Indians for “embarrassing” play during the first overtime on Friday, and Bevins’s ridicule changed Schoharie’s attitude. In the second overtime, the Indians started winning more balls and being more physical.

From the beginning of play on Thursday, Schoharie wanted a direct game. Sanchez told The Enterprise after play stopped on Thursday that Voorheesville didn’t want an overly physical game.

The Indians’ goal on Thursday came from Lucas Howland, who rocketed a shot from 40 yards out, going high off Scott Warren’s hands and into the netting. It was the right idea with slippery and wet conditions.

“He actually took that shot,” Sanchez said of Howland’s goal. “Wow.”

Final shot

Back to Friday, with the game in the second sudden-death overtime, Archer came up with a huge save as he had done plenty of times before in the game. Voorheesville’s Blake Fenner had an open shot from 20 yards, but Archer caught the hard shot out of mid-air.

Minutes later, the Blackbirds were called for a foul, and Cody Stephenson lined up a free kick for Schoharie to Warren’s left from 25 yards. Stephenson’s strike went right into the goal box as players from both teams crashed the area. Senior Skylar VanDerwerken got a foot on the ball, ending Voorheesville’s season.

It was a game that had seen it all: Freezing cold, sunshine, snow, sleet, aggressive play, and stunning goals. There was nothing left to see of a match that had spanned 24 hours.

Prendergast said that this particular game made him and his teammates better players overall. “It was a completely new experience with diverse situations,” he said. “The way we played will come in effect for the guys that’ll be playing next year.”

“It was the coldest day of my life,” VanDerwerken said of Thursday’s proceedings. “The ball looked like a big snowball. There were ice chunks on my cleats.”

Voorheesville had beaten Schoharie for a Class CC title in 2009 and also ousted the Indians in the first round of the playoffs in 2008. VerDerwerken believes that the two teams now have a rivalry going after breaking a “curse” on Friday.

“Maybe we panicked,” said Prendergast, whose final game with Voorheesville will be no less than memorable. “We were a young team in a big game. The better team doesn’t always walk off as the winner.”

Stopping play on Thursday wasn’t ideal, Sanchez said, but the Blackbirds were ready to play on Friday. Voorheesville did everything but win the game.

“We shouldn’t hang our heads on this,” said Sanchez. “We played hard, but soccer is a cruel, evil game.”

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