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Hamburg takes on Grand Island for spot in Class A final

Ashley Kabza (right) and Hamburg look to reach the Class A final this weekend with a win over Grand Island in the semifinals Tuesday, Oct. 29 at Depew.
The ultimate goal of the Hamburg girls soccer team is to get a rematch with Williamsville South, in the Class A final this weekend at Amherst, and then advance beyond Section VI, but to do so, the Bulldogs will first have to defeat a perennially-strong Grand Island later this afternoon (Tuesday, Oct. 29) 4:30 p.m. at Depew.

The sixth-seed faces No. 2 Grand Island in the Class A semifinal. Grand Island is 14-1-3 and only lost out on the regular season-NFL division title by a half game to Lockport. It's the first of three semifinal games at Depew. Three other sectional semifinals will be played at Amherst.

“I think we’re going to get to the finals. Our objective is to win there and get to the regional,” head coach Tom Zugger admitted. “We played right with Williamsville South in two tight games. We had one game in the bag and let it get away from us.”

Zugger said that he is optimistic about his team’s chances in the semifinal and then potentially giving South a run. In one of the two games the teams’ played this year, Hamburg led 1 – 0 at halftime, before falling 2 – 1. The Bulldogs have enjoyed a 12 – 3 – 3 season.

Senior Jessie Smith, who returned this season after missing last year due to an ACL injury, said the team was hoping to get another shot at South, if both teams can get to the final. She added that the two sides have a mutual respect for one another.

“We’re hoping to get to play Will. South again because they’re the only team we seem to lose to every season, so it would be nice to finally beat them,” said Smith, a captain, who's fourth on team with 20 points, including seven goals. “Their coach told us they want us to play them in the finals, if we both can make it.”

Hamburg has been led offensively by Kara Daly, who scored twice and assisted on Smith’s tally in a 4 - 1 pre-quarterfinal win over Iroquois, and then added a goal the next round in a 2 - 1 victory over Springville. Daly has racked up 30 goals and 11 assists. Zugger noted that Daly is a rare talent, but she could not do it without junior midfielders Amy Villarini and Ashley Kabza winning the balls in the middle.

Senior defender Lexi Higgins also notched a goal, and Kabza and Alexis Kinsman each added assists in the opening-round win. Villarini notched the opening goal against Springville. Villarini has 10 goals and 10 assists, while Kabza has notched 8 goals and 12 assists.

Zugger said the team’s biggest surprise has been freshman goalkeeper Julie Whipple, whom he said has played “out of her mind,” throughout the season.

“It’s one of the nicest groups I’ve ever coached,” Zugger said. “They all like each other and it’s a real team effort. If we have a problem, it’s that the team is too unselfish and doesn’t take enough shots. They all want to give the ball up in front of the net. But its a good problem to have.”

Read more about Jessie Smith returning from her ACL injury in this week's edition of The Sun, which will be out on Thursday.


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