Ward Melville's Adriana Victoriano during the 2023 Girls Soccer Semi-final...

Ward Melville's Adriana Victoriano during the 2023 Girls Soccer Semi-final Championship game at Cortland High School in Cortland, N.Y., Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023. (Photo by Heather Ainsworth) Credit: Heather Ainsworth/Heather Ainsworth

 CORTLAND — Ward Melville is a defending girls soccer state champion. And on Saturday, the Patriots played like a team 80 minutes away from claiming back-to-back titles.

 Ward Melville defeated Shenendehowa, 3-0, in the state Class AAA semifinals at Tompkins Cortland Community College on Saturday night.

 The Patriots dominated possession throughout the contest, with Shenendehowa failing to generate a quality scoring chance. Ward Melville controlled the pace from the opening whistle, firing 15 shots on goal while allowing  only one by Shenendehowa (14-3-2).

 “Obviously there’s been so much pressure on us all season and every question has been, ‘Do you think you guys will make it back to states?,’” said Marissa Tonic, a senior defensive midfielder. “And all season we were humble. We hoped so but we’ve been working for this and it’s finally paying off.”

 Ward Melville (18-0-3) plays Monroe-Woodbury (14-2-2) in the state Class AAA final aton Sunday at 1 p.m. Ward Melville defeated Monroe-Woodbury, 1-0, in overtime in the state Class AA semifinals last season en route to winning its first state title in program history. This is the first year of a girls soccer Class AAA state championship in New York. 

 “We went into the game confident, which really helped us dominate the game and really play the whole game in their half (of the field),” said Adriana Victoriano, a junior forward. “We just had to keep our composure, play quick, play fast and trust each other.”

 That trust led to three different goal scorers, starting with Alessandra Victoriano, twin sister of Adriana, sending a cross toward the net, resulting in a goal after hitting multiple different players to give Ward Melville a 1-0 lead with 7:13 left in the first half.

 Ward Melville remained on the attack in the second half. Breena Harrigan scored from 18 yards off a pass from Tonic with 10:14 left and Adriana Victoriano added the final goal for the Patriots with 3:35 left.

 “We’ve been working toward this the entire season,” Adriana said. “Our priorities are set toward this and we really want to win it again.”

 The back line, including Samantha Ruffini, Gabrielle Justiniano, Sarah Jablonsky and Alessandra Victoriano with Kate Ronzoni in goal, had another strong performance in the team’s seventh straight shutout.

 With the majority of the team returning from last year’s state championship season, Ward Melville proved ready for the state tournament environment. 

 “They’ve been here so they know what it takes,” coach John Diehl said. “There’s very little we need to tell the girls at this point. They’ve been here, they’re familiar with it. They want it and they are determined to go for another title.”

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