DUNKIRK — Hailey Jasinski didn’t start the season in net for the North Collins Eagles girls soccer team, but it sure is a good thing that’s where she plays now.
Jasinski was the difference maker in net as No. 2 North Collins edged No. 3 Maple Grove 4-3 in penalty kicks to advance to the Section VI Class D finals at Karl Hoeppner Athletic Field in Dunkirk.
“It kind of turned our season around,” North Collins head coach Vince Fininzio said about Hailey Jasinski. “She wasn’t playing goal at the beginning of the year, but she’s just a phenomenal athlete. That’s why we won seven games this year, because when she’s in the net we were able to muster enough offense and she kept us in games.”
It was a battle of the two netminders as Jasinski made 15 saves and Maple Grove’s Megan McGee made 22 stops to prevent either side from finding the scoresheet in regulation or the two overtime periods. Then, in penalty kicks, both teams were able to find the back of the net.
“Megan is a rock-solid goalie,” Maple Grove head coach Bethany Seastrum said of her keeper. “She’s tiny, but she doesn’t know that. She has saved us in more games than just this one … she’s phenomenal.”
Maple Grove’s first three shooters, Madeleine Wadsworth, Alexis Hall and Madilyn Seastrum, all scored to really put the pressure on North Collins, which just received goals from Jasinski and Breanna Kaczanowski to make it 3-2 Maple Grove.
North Collins then dialed it in with a goal from Kierra Puntillo, which Jasinski followed up with a huge save diving to her right that leveled the score. Now it was North Collins’ turn to put on the pressure and that’s exactly what Novalee Schlenker did as she put the Eagles ahead 4-3. The final Maple Grove shot sailed just wide of the post and sent North Collins back into the Class D finals.
If it wasn’t for some defensive heroics, there would have been no need for an overtime period, but even with the great goaltending, Maple Grove’s Hall made the save of the game. In the second half, North Collins’ Jaylee Jimerson dribbled down the right wing and sent a cross into the box that was deflected past McGee and was rolling into the back of the net. However, Hall had other plans as she came dashing in to save the ball right before it crossed the line and cleared the threat.
“Possession-wise we kind of just banged the ball around a lot,” Fininzio said about the possession. “I think both teams kind of played a little bit like that, it was ping-pong back and forth. We got some opportunities, we just didn’t finish.”
After an uneventful first half, things heated up in the second with North Collins controlling most of the play, but Maple Grove managed plenty of dangerous chances on the counterattack.
Some of Maple Grove’s (3-11-1) best chances came from Seastrum joining the attack and Morgan Caldwell’s superb dribbling through the middle. Unfortunately for the Red Dragons, the several chances those two created were all turned aside by Jasinski.
“We just couldn’t finish,” Seastrum said about the offense. “You have to finish goals in order to win games. We do very well in the attack, we just can’t finish those goals.”
The North Collins (7-7-2) victory sets up a rematch with No. 1 Ellicottville (11-6-0) in the Class D Final on Saturday in Dunkirk.
“I lost some goal scoring, but I think we’ve matured this year,” Fininzio said about this year’s team. “I play a lot of ninth-graders and my seniors have stepped up. We’re going to go out and we’re going to battle for 80 minutes — hopefully it’s 80 minutes — and we’re excited to be back.”