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Clarence girls soccer answers questions with semifinal run

Junior Lauren Moore fights for possession of the ball in Clarence’s playoff loss to eventual Class AA champion Orchard Park. (Photo by Joe Valenti)

The Clarence High School girls soccer team entered the 2012 season with a lot of questions. With a new coach and a lot of new players, the Red Devils were determined to keep the proud program near the top of Section VI.

Although the Red Devils fell short of the ultimate goals, that couldn’t take away from a season of progress.

“You never want to end like this,” first-year coach Stephanie Stevens said after a Section VI semifinal loss to Orchard Park, “but overall we made a lot of improvements. We did a little at a time, and I thought from beginning to end, we looked like a completely different team.”

Despite replacing 12 seniors from last season, Clarence remained a powerhouse in Class AA. The Red Devils finished the season at 10-5-3 and left a lot to look forward to in the future.

After an 1-3 start to the season, the Red Devils took off. Clarence went more than a month without a loss, enjoying a 9-0-1 stretch. That included a win over Orchard Park and a tie against Williamsville North, the two participants in the Class AA sectional title game.

The sectional championship game was similar to the season as a whole. The Red Devils got off to a rough start before coming on strong. Unfortunately for Clarence, top-seed and eventual sectional champion Orchard Park was too tough in a 2-0 win.

“We came out and played much better in the second half,” Stevens said after that game. “We just couldn’t keep it up there. We just talked about some improvements we had to make,” Stevens said. “We started stepping to the ball instead of waiting.”

And those improvements seem likely to continue in 2013. In fact, the top five Red Devils in points are underclassmen: sophomore Sydney Cerza (16 goals, seven assists), eighth-grader Riley Bowers (nine goals, six assists), junior Caitlyn Roberts (seven goals, five assists), sophomore Kristen Benson (six goals, two assists) and freshman Amanda Burns (three goals, five assists).

“We’ve got a lot to look forward to,” Stevens said. “We’ve got a lot of young talent and more coming up as well.”

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