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High School Girls Soccer: Hamburg enjoying playoff run to semis, next take on Will. East

Hamburg sophomore Gabby Hafner is defended by Lake Shore’s Ashley Kerr in a Class A quarterfinal game on Oct. 26. Hamburg won 7-0 to advance to Thursday’s (Nov. 1) semifinal. (Photo by Michael J. Petro)

ECIC II rivals meet Thursday (Nov. 1) with finals berth on-the-line

Every team wants to be the last one standing in the end, but what’s also motivating Hamburg just a little extra in the 2012 playoffs is a desire not to see the experience of what’s become an enjoyable and successful season end.

And that’s exactly how they’re playing. After a 12-3 regular season, in which Hamburg beat perennial-power and Class A front-runner Williamsville East, the Bulldogs now have two games down in the playoffs, winning by a combined 13-0, with a rematch with East slated for the sectional semifinals on Thursday, Nov. 1.

“They’ve had such a good year and have had so much fun, they basically don’t want this to end,” said Hamburg first-year head coach Jenny Bagley, who’s had such an enjoyable time herself the transition to heading the varsity has been “like cake,” she noted with a laugh.

Class A’s third-seed Hamburg followed an opening round 6-0 win over No. 13 Kenmore East with a 7-0 drubbing of cross-town rival Lake Shore on Friday (Oct. 27).

“We knew we had to give it our all, because at this point, its win if you want to keep going” said senior Jenna Smolinski, a fourth-year starter, who’s become even more of a playmaker at the center midfield spot this season. “In our last game, we didn’t come out as hard, so we knew this game, we needed to come into it like we played the second half of our last game and set a tone for the entire game.”

Set a tone they did, as the Bulldogs scored the first goal of the game just two minutes in and just kept rolling from there.

Amy Villarini scored the hat trick, with three goals, along with an assist. Ashley Kabza and Kara Daly each added two goals and one assist. Smolinski recorded three assists, while Abbey Piccillo had one. Allie Izzo made seven saves to earn the shutout.

Lake Shore, the 12th seed, had just come off an impressive 7-0 win at No. 5 Hutch Tech in the pre-quarterfinals. Sophomore sensation Melanie Linsmair notched three goals in that win. She led the Eagles with 16 goals, while teammate Josliyn Benton had 10.

“Lake Shore had some strong players that we knew about,” Bagley said. “We made sure we were marking them up and playing strong. We needed to come out with intensity and score right off the bat and we did.”

Bagley said this is the epitome of a team that’s working hard and doing it for the benefit of one another. She added that it’s been a huge help that the group has been ready to practice every day and brought that attitude into games. As well as off the field, she couldn’t be more happy with the bonding that occurred.

“From the beginning, we all just got along, have been close and all just work really well together,” Smolinski confirmed. “We practice hard and have really good pep talks. If we’re doing something wrong or goofing off too much, we get together and tell each other we need to get going. We blend real well.”

Smolinski has been a guiding force behind that with her leadership and ability to run the field from her position. She’s gone from a goal scorer to more of a playmaker.

“I’m in the center and kind of all over the place but my team is all there for me,” Smolinski said. “They always get open for me, so I can do my job well.”

She credits the emergence of Daly, a freshman first-year varsity player who’s exploded for 35 goals this year (just over two per game), in helping Hamburg become an offensive force, despite losing its top two scorers from last season.

“Having her makes it a totally different game,” said Smolinski, who is second on the team with 20 points on eight goals and 24 assists. “You know she’s always going to finish. It’s nice to have that kind of forward that can dribble it in on people and score.”

Bagley also noted that Villarini, a sophomore midfielder, has been a big part of the offense with 12 goals and seven assists and like Daly, is so strong driving to the net, while junior Ellen Piccillo has been a defensive leader who keeps the backline organized. She added that Izzo was named a mid-season captain because of the way the senior has matured into such an integral leader on the team.

The excitement built from this season even made the prospect of a third meeting with Williamsville East very tempting. Hamburg won on its home turf field, 4-3, when the two met on Oct. 16, but East won the previous match-up 2-1 last month. After a one-day delay due to Tropical Storm Sandy, the two are slated to play in the Class A semifinal on Thursday 7 p.m. at Amherst.

“We’re excited. We split with them and we’re ready. We think we can take them,” Bagley said.

“People didn’t think Hamburg was getting anywhere this year, but we’ve showed we want it,” Smolinski said. “We’ve come back and we’re ready for East.”


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