BEDFORD, N.Y.— Stacey Wierl wasn’t happy with her team’s play late in the first half and she let them know about it at halftime.
But when the final buzzer sounded, John Jay-Cross River’s head coach had a big smile on her face.
Wierl was able celebrate her birthday in style as the Indians punched their ticket to the Class B state final four with a resounding 20-7 win over Warwick Valley of Section 9 in the regional final.
“Knowing that we’re going to the state final four, I couldn’t think of a better gift,” Wierl said.
The Indians scored the first five goals of the game with the run being capped off by a Cameron Crawford tally. Jenna Giardina hit Charlotte Wilmoth, who sent a quick pass to Crawford on June 2 at Newburgh Free Academy.
“It’s so exciting,” said Crawford, who had two goals and three assists. “I think that we’ve worked so hard this season for so long. From the minute we started working in the gym as a team, this is what we’ve been working for so for it to pay off really means a lot to everyone.”
Warwick finally got on the board but the Indians responded with another 5-0 run. Giardina (2A) scored four goals over a stretch of just three minutes to give John Jay a 12-2 edge.
Mia DiChiara scored the last goal of the half and John Jay went into the break with a 13-4 lead. Wierl, however, felt that the team let down their intensity late in the first half.
“The ball was not moving as well as it should,” said Wierl, whose assistant coaches are Claire Yergeau, Marissa Kluber and Liz Ferrara. “Parts of the offense didn’t look as sharp as it should of. We had a mix of players on the field and the expectation is that everybody raises the level of intensity when they get on the field. That wasn’t happening at the tail end of the first half so that needed to change and it did. The kids stepped back onto the field with a level of intensity that they need to bring to Cortland. I’m thrilled.”
Wilmoth, who led the Indians with a game-high six goals and four assists, made it 17-6 on an 8-meter with 14:10 left in the game. She then found a cutting O’Reilly (2G) two minutes later.
Tyman Cronin added two goals while Julianna Duva had an assist. Taylor Rice and Brianna Garofolo split the game in the cage and made four saves each.
John Jay (18-3) advances to its first state semifinal since 2013. It will face Section 5’s Brighton at SUNY Cortland at 3 p.m. on Friday, June 8. If it wins it will play for a state championship the next day at 4:30 p.m at the same venue.
“It couldn’t happen with a nicer group of families, with a better group of kids, with a program from kindergarten all the way through our modified program that’s here to support us,” Wierl said. “And an outstanding athletics program that provides us with everything that we need to be successful.
“It takes an entire village to get to this level and that village worked incredibly hard to get us here.”
John Jay 17, Queensbury 10
The Indians squared off with a familiar opponent in the Class B regional semifinals on May 30 at Fox Lane High School.
Back on April 4, in John Jay’s first game of the season, it took on Section 2’s Queensbury with the Indians recording a 14-7 win.
When the two teams met again, the margin of victory was the same with John Jay pulling out a 17-10 win.
This time, however, John Jay admitted that it was a more difficult game against a physical Queensbury team.
“As the game went on, they started to get a little bit more physical,” Giardina said. “They were a team that I think maybe at first we were thinking we were able to take lightly just because of how we played them in the beginning (of the season). But I don’t think we took into account that we as a team got better and they as a team got better. So we just have to keep that in mind for the rest of the journey.”
With 14:50 left in the game, the Indians had just a three goal lead with the scoreboard reading 12-9.
The Indians weren’t about to let Queensbury get any closer.
Wilmoth, who had a game-high seven goals and two assists, found Crawford for the goal to make it 13-9. The sophomore then sent in a high shot on an 8-meter to stretch the lead to five.
“My teammates were just really finding me (in the first half) and I was just really faking and changing my levels so I can finish my shots,” said Wilmoth, who scored five of her goals in the first half. “In the second half, I was getting double teamed a lot but I was keeping my head up and looking for those passes.”
Giardina’s 100th career goal gave John Jay a 15-9 lead with 8:41 left in the contest. “It’s an amazing accomplishment but it’s not just an accomplishment for me,” said Giardina, who netted two goals.
At halftime, John Jay made an adjustment on the draw, adding freshman Lily Preis to the mix and it paid off. “Our coach just likes to change it up,” Wilmoth said. “Keep the other team on their feet. (Lily) just really stepped up as a freshman and really gave us the ball and possession because possession wins the games.”
Cronin, who scored with 13 seconds left in the first half to send Jay into halftime with a 9-6 lead, had three goals. O’Reilly (2G, 2A), Crawford (2G, 1A) and Rice (5 saves) also contributed.