PLATTSBURGH - The Lake Placid boys soccer team hadn't played a game in two weeks prior to Wednesday's Section VII, Class C championship match against Northern Adirondack under the lights at Plattsburgh High School.
The Blue Bombers didn't appear to show any signs of a long layoff. Nzoni Thompson scored less than five minutes into the match for a 1-0 Lake Placid lead, and Stuart Baird put the game away on a tally with just five seconds remaining to lift the Blue Bombers to a 2-0 victory and their second straight sectional title.
After winning the first boys soccer championship in school history last fall, the Blue Bombers now own back-to-back titles and will attempt to go a step further than a year ago when they bowed out in regional action. Lake Placid next plays the Section II champion in the first round of the state playoffs.
Senior Andrew Meister carts Lake Placid teammate Stuart Baird across the field as they celebrate winning the Section VII, Class C title Wednesday in Plattsburgh.
Lou Reuter/Lake Placid News
After beginning his four-year varsity career on two Lake Placid teams that fell short of winning a title, senior Andrew Meister said it's thrilling to be part of two championship teams. And he came up big Wednesday to help make that happen by setting up both Blue Bombers goals.
"Over the past few years, the talk has been that Lake Placid has a lot of potential," Meister said. "My first season on varsity, we had a lot of individual talent but didn't go far because we didn't play as a team. The next year we got a little closer, and last year we got Stu (coach Stuart Hemsley) and really bonded as a team.
"We made history last year, and did it again tonight with two in a row," Meister continued. "We'll go for three next year. Of course I won't be on the field, but I'll be cheering the team on, but we're not done yet this year. I think we've done a great job showing what the difference is between team play and individual play."
The Bobcats reached the championship game after upsetting Seton Catholic 3-1 a week ago in the semifinal round. After escaping with a 2-1 win against the Bobcats in the last match of the regular season, Hemsley said he made sure his squad was well prepared for a title defense, despite the long layoff.
"We know they surprised Seton this year, and we kind of surprised Seton last year in the final, and I don't like surprises," Hemsley said. "We knew we couldn't come in here and lay down for them. Their coach (Pat Kelleher) is a friend of mine, and he's got a tight, solid team. They almost came back and beat us last time, and we didn't want that to happen again."
The Blue Bombers took advantage of two straight corner kicks off the foot of Meister to score the game's first goal. After a Bobcats defender cleared the first attempt over the end line, Meister launched another high corner kick into the middle of the box. Junior Shane McNierney was able to get a head on the ball and directed it toward the far side of the net, where Thompson gained control and one-timed a low shot into the corner past a diving Bobcats keeper Ethan King.
Holding a 1-0 edge, Lake Placid didn't let up and generated some great scoring chances early on. The Bobcats, however, were able to stay within one shot of tying the contest until the closing seconds, but rarely mounted a challenge against a strong Blue Bombers defense. With the win all but sealed, Meister set up Baird for the final goal, which came on a chip shot from in close with 5.4 seconds left on the game clock.
"I was just dribbling the ball and trying to kill time," Meister said. "I sent the ball in front, and Stuart was there. Right place, right time."
Lake Placid held a 13-3 edge in shots, and Chris Kordziel made three stops to earn the shutout win in nets. King recorded four saves in goal for the Bobcats, who finished with a 6-9-1 mark.
"That first goal they scored was a good goal, and we never got caught up offensively" Kelleher said. "We didn't really mount a threat.
"Obviously, this is a really disappointing loss," Kelleher added. "But with this team, winning or losing is secondary. I've had a great year with these guys. It's been an honor coaching them."
The Blue Bombers improved to 10-3-2 overall with the win in a game that Hemsley said was a long time coming.
"That two weeks felt like forever," Hemsley said. "Last week's practices weren't the best because the match seemed so far off. We really started gearing up on Sunday. We've got 22 on the roster, and we went at it earlier this week. We played our non-starting 11 against our starting 11, and our non-starters won one to nil. That's how badly our whole squad wanted this win. We really don't want to be done with our season."
Lake Placid will next play on Wednesday against the winner of Saturday's Section II, Class C championship game between Lake George and Maple Hill. The Blue Bombers regional match will be held at Schuylerville High School starting at 4 p.m.
Lake Placid 2, NAC 0
1. LP, Thompson (Meister, McNierney), 4:49.
2. LP, Baird (Meister), 39:55.
Shots: Lake Placid 13, NAC 3
Saves: LP, Kordziel 3; NAC, King 4.