Shoreham-Wading River's Grace Hillis looks on during a NYSPHSAA Class...

Shoreham-Wading River's Grace Hillis looks on during a NYSPHSAA Class A semifinal game against New Hartford at Cortland High School on Saturday. Credit: Heather Ainsworth

CORTLAND — This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Shoreham-Wading River girls soccer.

The team returned just three starters and fielded a young roster. Nonetheless, the Wildcats clawed their way into the Class A state final where they fell short of the championship.

“I just think it shows [the younger players] that no matter how many people you have on your team,” senior captain Grace Hillis said, “[or] how many girls actually play soccer at different levels, that if you just work together, you can get here. And I think that’s just what we did this year.”

Shoreham-Wading River lost, 2-0, to Rye in the Class A girls soccer state final at Cortland High School on Sunday. The Wildcats finish their season at 15-4-3.

The two teams held a scoreless tie through the first half, but Rye broke through quickly in the second half off a corner kick. Lyla Keenan crossed the ball to Madelyn Walsh, who headed the ball in just 1:08 into the second half to give the Garnets a 1-0 lead.

Rye’s offensive attack earned four more corners within the first eight minutes of the second half. The Garnets finished with nine corners in the game.

“We knew if they were going to score on us, it was going to be off a set piece like that,” Shoreham-Wading River coach Adrian Gilmore said. “It’s something we talked about. We showed them a lot of different set pieces this morning.”

Charlotte Keenan scored Rye’s second goal off an assist from Walsh with 12:43 remaining in the game. The Wildcats offense pushed back, earning a couple scoring opportunities in the final stretch but couldn’t convert.

“Never stop,” Hillis said of what she wants her younger teammates to take away fromSunday. “The game’s never over. You just got to keep going. You got to keep fighting no matter if you think you’re going to lose or not. You just have to finish it off strong because you only have so long.”

The Wildcats outperformed preseason expectations in what was supposed to be a rebuilding season. Hillis and Bella Sweet, two returning starters from 2022, will graduate. However, Gilmore expects a majority of the team back, including Ava Gengler, who tore her ACL.

Morgan Lesiewicz will remain in goal as a senior, and Olivia Pesso and Mia Mangano will be back to lead the offense in their junior seasons.

The Wildcats will be looking to regain the state crown they last won in 2019.

“Our future looks bright,” Gilmore said. “JV played well this year, so we definitely have the numbers coming back. And now these girls have a taste of what it’s like to be up here and to be playing for a state championship.”


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