* Follow the NYS girls soccer playoffs on Twitter @MSGV_Icass *
NEW YORK STATE CLASS A GIRLS SOCCER SEMIFINALS
Somers (Section 1) vs. Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (Section 2)
When: Saturday, November 19 at 1:30 p.m.
Where: Tompkins-Cortland Community College
Head coach: Keenan Deegan
Players to watch: Beth Coppolecchia (senior, goalie); Melissa Menta (senior, midfielder); Melissa Rodriguez (senior, forward)
BURNT HILLS-BALLSTON LAKE SPARTANS
Head coach: Brian Bold
Players to watch: Morgan Burchhardt (sophomore, striker); Meghan Malone (freshman, defense); Skye Kaler (junior, midfield)
Somers, which is looking to capture its first state title in program history, is sparked by senior striker Melissa Rodriguez and senior midfielder Melissa Menta. The talented tandem creates a plethora of scoring opportunities. Rodriguez is a brilliant finisher, while Menta uses her speed and relentlessness to create chances for her teammates. She also is a solid finisher, as she scored the game-winning goal in an overtime win over John Jay-Cross River in the Section 1 Class A championship game.
When teams focus on shutting down the dynamic duo, the Tuskers have plenty of other players that can score such as Melissa Righetti, Melissa Barcia, Carolyn Casey, Bridget Reilly and Melanie Anes, who tallied the game-winning goal in overtime in a regional final victory over Cornwall last weekend.
Burnt Hills possesses a high-powered offense led by Morgan Burchhardt and Meghan Malone, who have combined for 37 goals this season. The Spartans have scored seven goals in two state tournament wins including a 4-1 victory over Section 10’s Malone in the regional finals.
“We’re going to have to watch them and just play as a team,” senior goalkeeper Beth Coppolecchia said. “Our defense is going to have to step it up, which they have been.”
Both Rodriguez and Menta suffered injuries in their win over a physical Cornwall team, but they will be ready to play come Saturday.
“I feel good,” said Rodriguez, who suffered an ankle injury against the Dragons. “We have a week, so there’s a lot of resting going on for us. Everybody’s getting better and we’re all going to be able to play.”
“We’ll have our full team,” Coppolecchia said. “They’re going to play through it. It’s states and obviously their senior year.”
The Tuskers’ defense is anchored by Coppolecchia, who is a shutout machine. Somers counts on sweeper Hayley Bonner, Jessica Fanelli and Alexa Baiano to hold down the defense in front of Coppolecchia.
“I feel comfortable with them in front of me,” Coppolecchia said of her defense. “I know anything that comes down, they’ve got it. Jess and Alexa will mark up [Burnt Hills’] two top strikers.”
While Burnt Hills may be a juggernaut on the offensive end, they probably haven’t seen a goaltender the caliber of Coppolecchia this year.
“We just have to stay on our marks, possess the ball, and hold them off because I know they’re really physical,” said Rodriguez, who won a state title in Virginia as a sophomore while playing for Stone Bridge. “I know we can do it because we accomplished that last game.”
While the NYS tournament is completely new to this Somers squad, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake has experience on their side. They reached the state semifinals last season, but fell to Garden City.
The Tuskers, who last reached the state final four in 2006, know that they need to block out any nerves and stay focused on the task at hand.
“If you go into the game nervous, sometimes you don’t play your best,” Rodriguez said. “We want to go in confident, but play our best. And show them what we can do.”
The winner will take on either Section 8’s South Side or Section 6’s Williamsville South in the Class A state championship game on Sunday, November 20 at Homer High School at 1 p.m.
2011 PLAYOFF COVERAGE
NYS regional finals: Somers girls overcome adversity, Cornwall
Section 1 finals: Somers girls grab Class A title
Section 1 quarterfinals: Somers blanks Ursuline in Class A quarters
Follow Rob DiAntonio on Twitter @MSGV_RJD