Lady Rams soccer celebrates Senior Day, struggle to finish in loss to Gloversville

They showed plenty of strength keeping possession of the ball, but The Amsterdam Lady Rams varsity soccer team missed opportunities to finish Saturday afternoon as they challenged Foothills Council opponent Gloversville for the second time in less than a week. Kenesha Beckford’s goal in the second half was the deciding factor as Gloversville came away a 1-0 winner at Lynch Literacy Academy Field on Senior Day for the Lady Rams and their fans.

The outcome however could not dampen the emotions on a warm, early fall afternoon. It was the last scheduled home game for AHS seniors Lucia Liverio, Emma Patrei, Haley Madej, Kelsey Bogdan, and Jada DeGroat, all of whom started the game. The Lady Rams took plenty of inspiration from Liverio, who only days before was on crutches nursing a sore ankle. Liverio wasn’t about to miss her final home game.

“I wanted to get out there and play,” Liverio said. “I couldn’t sit out. It was my last game.”

Liverio showed her heart despite an injury that limited her ability. Five minutes into the first half, she left the game to the applause of her teammates, opponents and fans. Taking Liverio’s place as a forward was freshman Alyssa Mosher, who was called up from the Lady Rams junior varsity team. Mosher continued to try time and again to charge into the Gloversville zone in a game that turned into a battle for possession of the ball.

Amsterdam’s best chance to get the ball in the net came when standout Glovesville defender Libby Cook briefly left the game after colliding knee to knee with Mosher on a play to the right of the Gloversville zone. An Amsterdam corner kick at the 10:33 mark of the first half drifted harmlessly in front of the Gloversville net without a Lady Rams player putting a foot on it. That factor plagued the Lady Rams throughout the game.

“The right people were crossing the ball, but the right people weren’t there to put it in,” Amsterdam coach Jessica Byerwalters said. “We’re not finishing.”

Amsterdam dominated possession in the first half due to the play of midfielders Patrei, Jael Irizarry, Grace Clark, and Deliana Figueroa, who kept winning one on one plays with Gloversville attackers and advanced the ball to AHS forwards, yet the Lady Rams had nothing to show for it on the scoreboard.

Gloversville coach Mike Hallenbeck expected more for his team and let them know it when he requested only two minutes for halftime.

“I think they got the message,” Hallenbeck said. “We weren’t making good decisions, and they got the message with the two-minute half.”

Gloversville came out with a better game plan and put pressure on the Lady Rams defense early on in the second half. Lady Dragons midfielder Michaela Ponticello found the ball at her feet at the center in front of the Amsterdam goal mouth and fired a shot that went off the cross-bar at the 38:30 mark. Less than six minutes later, Harmony Philo’s close range shot prompted a save by Amsterdam goal keeper Jareymarie Aponte. Amsterdam continued to battle for the ball and countered with a shot by Figueroa that went high over the Gloversville net. The game continued to look as if it was going to head into overtime, but Gloversville broke the scoreless tie, putting someone in the right spot at the right time. Beckford’s shot with 26:27 remaining in the game beat Aponte into the top half, center of the AHS net.

“We played a great ball across the box,” Coach Hallenbeck said. “Kenesha was in the right spot at the right time and put it away.”

There was plenty of time for the Lady Rams to respond. Defenders Gabby and Jackie Stanavich continued to hustle, and their best chance came when Patrie moved the ball deep into Gloversville territory and found Mosher in front and to the right of the Lady Dragons net and keeper Alex Befatti. Mosher’s shot looped into the air, on goal, but Benfatti jumped up to take away the chance.

“We’re playing tough,” Coach Byerwalters said. “But if we don’t finish it’s not going to be a good outcome.”

Liverio returned for the last 90 seconds of the game to try to spark a Lady Rams rally, but Gloversville’s defense anchored by Benfatti in net finished off the second 1-0 win over the Lady Rams in less than a week.

“We need to start finishing,” Liverio said. “We have the potential to go far in sectionals, but we have to learn to finish.”

Gloversville had defeated the Lady Rams by the same 1-0 score on Monday at Gloversville High School, and the two wins could have an important impact on the seeds for the 2017 New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Section 2 Class A girls soccer playoffs.

“This will have a big impact on the 7-8-9 seeds for sectionals,” Coach Hallenbeck said.

Amsterdam goalkeeper Jareymarie Aponte faced ten shots on goal including three direct kicks by Gloversville midfielder Harmony Philo in the second half. The junior net minder made nine saves. Her counterpart; Alex Benfatti faced five shots, two on goal, and made both saves.

“Alex (Benfatti) in my opinion is the best goalkeeper in the league,” Coach Hallenbeck said. “She’s put together another good season, better than last season.”

After the game, the Lady Rams invited friends and fans to a picnic where parents and players had prepared hot dogs, hamburgers, pasta salad, and desserts for those in attendance. There were also cupcakes arranged with an image of the five seniors. The five seniors included;

Jada DeGroat

Coach Byerwalters described the first year varsity forward as “One of the hardest working players I’ve ever met.” A three-year player in the Amsterdam girls soccer program, DeGroat plans on attending college in California with hopes of continuing her soccer career.

“Jada continued to work on improving through the years and never lacked motivation,” said Byerwalters. “Replacing her as a student-athlete is one of the hardest things for next season.”

Haley Madej

“Haley was one of the first athletes to welcome me to Amsterdam,” said Coach Byerwalters. “Never a dull moment. She filled my life and the lives of her teammates with so much entertainment and joy.”

Madej is a true graduate of the Amsterdam Youth Soccer Club (AYSC) having played soccer at the beginning “Soccer Mites” level. Byerwalters has been Madej’s coach through her entire high school soccer carer.

Kelsey Bogdan

Another Soccer Mite teammate has been playing soccer since she was four years old. Byerwalters described Bogdan as; “An awesome role model to young female athletes”, and someone who has “continued that role as a role model and captain for this team.”

Bogdan said after a loss at home earlier in the season to Johnstown that the team would “Come back better and stronger and beat them on their field.” Less than two weeks later the Lady Rams did just that and beat he Lady Bills 2-1 in Johnstown giving them seven wins for the season. Bogdan also hopes to continue to play soccer in college.

Emma Patrei

Byerwalters said of Patrei that she is “A highly respected soccer player and captain.” The multi-talented Patrei is also a three sport athlete at AHS, also playing softball and track and field.

Patrei is a four-year member of the Lady Rams varsity and has played soccer since she was seven years old. She has plans for college that include playing softball. If Patrei plays softball and also runs track and field for the AHS varsity in the spring, she will become the first female athlete in school history to play two sports in the same season, for all four years.

“Without Emma many goals would not have seen the back of the net,” said Byerwalters. “She never stopped showing her passion and skills, and continued to show that passion for soccer for all four years.”

Lucia Liverio

Another four-year member of the Lady Rams varsity, Byerwalters described Liverio as “An amazing athlete and teammate. There are so many reasons why young female athletes should look up to her.”

Liverio has had a remarkable three sport career at Amsterdam High School. Along with her soccer career, she has been the point guard for the Lady Rams varsity basketball team since she was a sophomore and has helped lead them to the NYSPHSAA Section 2 Class A championship game the last two years, and she is one of the founding members of the Lady Rams varsity lacrosse team. Liverio has indicated after graduation she will choose basketball as her college sport.

“There isn’t a day that goes by that we won’t miss so many things about her,” said Byerwalters. “But most of all her love of soccer.”

The Amsterdam Lady Rams (7-9) now wait to find out who they will play in the first round of sectionals. Pairing will be announced on Monday.

Scott Mulford

Scott Mulford has been covering local sports for over 20 years. He previously wrote for the Amsterdam Star and The Free Press of the Mohawk Valley.