ALLEGANY — Allegany-Limestone made a first-half goal stand as the game-winner, holding off Ellicottville to defend the Gator Cup boys soccer tournament championship on Saturday night.
Junior Tyler Curran scored the lone goal in the sixth minute, with an assist from Sean Conroy in front of a crowded net off a Chance LaCroix corner kick.
A-L goalkeeper Jack Conroy made six saves in his first shutout of the season.
The Gators controlled first-half possession, but the Eagles came out of halftime much stronger.
“They put a lot of pressure (on us) in the second half,” A-L coach Jon Luce said. “I thought they did a good job, especially in the middle, winning the ball. I thought that was our strength in the first half, we were able to win the ball and kind of possess. But in the second half they kind of turned it around. Their guys in the middle did a good job, I thought (midfielder Justin) Imhoff stepped up and played a great second half.
“They just kept putting pressure on us, kept getting corner kicks, a lot of free kicks, and we were able to fend them off luckily. We thought a couple of them were going to get in the back of the net, they just couldn’t connect on them, so we were fortunate to keep those opportunities away from them. They kept pressing ... and we just held on at the end. I’m just happy with the win.”
LaCroix, who also had a goal and an assist in Friday’s 2-1 win over Portville, was named tournament MVP. Curran and Ellicottville’s Caleb Jennings won sportsmanship awards.
Luce said the Gators will need players like LaCroix and Curran to lead the offense, after graduating much of the team’s scoring.
“We’ve graduated, the last couple years, all of our scoring, so new guys have to step up,” Luce said. “I thought our strength coming in was going to be our defense because they’re still intact, working together last year and doing an amazing job. So I thought the defense was going to be our strength. We’ve really got to find our offense and we’ve still got guys trying to find their positions. This was a good opening weekend; we start league on Monday so we’ve got to put it together pretty quick.”
Ellicottville’s Jamison Caldwell made seven saves.
“We just started focusing more on soccer, taking all the outside distractions away and just started playing a little bit better,” ECS coach Matt Finn said of his team’s second half. “I just told them, I bet (it was) 60-75 percent possession in the second half in their end. So it was much better. I thought we were going to get that last one, with a couple seconds left to go it trickles across the goal, if someone puts that away we’ve got a shot. They fought hard, I’m super proud of them.”
The tournament’s consolation game, between Olean and Portville, was not played after the Olean City School District reported a positive COVID-19 test of one of its students on Saturday. The school cancelled all weekend activities “in order to give the Department of Health time to conduct contact tracing and for the district to perform the necessary cleaning procedures,” a message on the district website said, so the game was postponed.
The postponement reminded both Ellicottville and A-L to enjoy the game for as long as it’s available. After a lost spring season, the teams won’t take the fall for granted, as evidenced by Ellicottville senior Bryce Butler’s halftime speech.
“One of my captains at halftime, Bryce Butler, said, ‘Any day could be our last game, this could be the last half you ever play, you shouldn’t leave this field with anything left in your body,’” Finn said. “I was like, ‘yup, exactly what you just said.’ He just said it again, he said we could be done at any time so play it like it’s your last game.”
Luce echoed those sentiments.
“We were just fortunate we got a chance to be on the field and play,” Luce said. “All the superintendents and administrators in our area are trying to do the best they can for our schools, so we expect those things to happen and we’ve just got to adjust with it. When they happen, we’ve just got to make our adjustments, whether it’s us or an opponent or the two teams in our tournament. We’re going to try to get those in later in the year, but you just want to take every game one game at a time because you don’t know when it’s going to be taken away.”