Babylon's Sophia Conti, center, and Haverling's Leah Krelie play in...

Babylon's Sophia Conti, center, and Haverling's Leah Krelie play in the 2023 Girls Soccer Championship game at Cortland High School in Cortland, N.Y., Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023. (Photo by Heather Ainsworth) Credit: Heather Ainsworth/Heather Ainsworth

CORTLAND — Sophia Conti and the Babylon girls soccer team embraced the underdog mentality every game this season — all the way through the state final.

“I’ve always had this determination and ambition to do better, but I couldn’t do it without any one of those girls,” said Conti, a senior captain. “This team is unique [in] that every single game, we were the underdogs. And we showed up and always wanted it more. That’s why we were so successful.”

Ultimately, Babylon (11-6-3) fell short of its state title hopes, falling to Haverling, 1-0, in the state Class B final on Sunday at Cortland High School.

Haverling scored just 1:20 into the contest off a corner kick. Ella Yartym crossed the ball to a leaping Keegan Smith, who headed it into the net.

Babylon coach Stuart Love game-planned to mark Smith, Haverling’s top player, throughout the contest. Love hadn’t assigned man coverage to a single player all season, but he believed it was necessary this time because of her prowess in the midfield.

“We discussed how we were going to deal with her,” Love said. “She just timed her run and timed her leap perfectly, as she did in the semifinal.

“I felt in open play we handled her fine. She didn’t get many shots on goal that I can remember . . . She’s obviously an excellent player.”

Despite the early blow, the Panthers’ demeanor didn’t change. The same hungry, energetic squad was on display for the remainder of the match.

Love, who is in his first year as Babylon’s coach, said this was the best coaching experience of his career.

“The atmosphere, the camaraderie, the positive energy throughout the team was inspiring,” he said. “I was just following their lead all season long.’’

Conti began her Babylon girls soccer career as an eighth-grader on a team that reached the state semifinals. Now the senior is passing the torch to a new set of seniors. There isn’t a doubt in her mind that her teammates will be back for another chance to capture the state championship.

“Eighth grade, I went to [the] state [tournament], and I thought that it was going to be such a common thing,” Conti said. “But it took so much effort to get back here. The girls know how rare it is, and they know how to work. They’re going to be back here. I swear to you, they will be back here.”


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