CICERO, N.Y. -- Emily Mott sobbed as she spoke, expressing the mixed emotions -- pride wrestling with disappointment -- typical after a loss in the state tournament. As she continued, though, it became clear that pride was the victor.
"In past years we've never had states as a goal," the Miller Place senior said. "But from day one this year, we've been saying, 'states, states, states.' When we were running in the snow, we were saying it. We accomplished that. We achieved something."
Christine Molinari scored both goals for the Knights and their defense -- along with CNS' slick Astroturf field -- gave Miller Place fits as it suffered its first loss of the year.
Pittsford Sutherland faces the winner of last night's Lakeland/Maine Endwell game in the final at 2 p.m. today. Lakeland is the three-time defending champion.
Carly Olsen made five saves for Miller Place (19-1), which earned its first trip to the state tournament since 2005. The Panthers have won five state titles, the last in 1993.
Pittsford's Amy Fasel stole the ball near the 30, drove left and passed right into a crowd.
The ball found Molinari, who tapped it into the right side with 6:58 left in the first half. Molinari's second goal came off a penalty-corner feed from Camerann Smith and iced the game with 2:47 remaining for the Knights (17-1).
Miller Place's best chance to score was on a fast break with just under 13 minutes left, but a skip pass slid out of bounds.
The Panthers play their home games on grass and this field, particularly in the cold, often makes passing difficult. Several teams, including Sachem East last year, have struggled to adjust.
This group helped rebuild the program and carried its community on a journey reminiscent of the Panthers' 1980s-90s heyday. Miller Place, which lost in the 2011 Suffolk semifinals, edged Rocky Point for the county title and beat Manhasset for the Long Island championship last week.
"You start 19-0, and in one game, it's over," senior Heather Ercolano said. "It's tough. But bringing this team back into the newspapers, being on , having former players from years ago reach out and say they're proud of us, you can't hold your head down about that."
Allie Krumholz, one of 12 juniors on the Panthers' roster, said this run to the state semifinals "is added motivation for everyone returning to get back up here and finish it off."
And, for the team's seven seniors, coach Alana LaMorte's message was this: "These guys put Miller Place back on the map. I told them it stings now, but in a year or two, when we're holding that plaque up, you'll know you had a hand in that."