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Clarence Survives Challenge From Spartans To Win Fourth Straight Title

Not many soccer observers gave Williamsville North much of a chance heading into Monday’s Class AA Section VI girls soccer championship game against powerhouse Clarence. After all the Red Devils won two ECIC I games over the Spartans in blowout fashion and many expected the third would be more of the same.

Not so fast.

The top-seeded Red Devils are indeed Section VI champions for a fourth straight season – but the underdog Spartans made Clarence work for every bit of a 2-1 win at Depew High School.

“We played a really good team tough,” Williamsville North coach Doug Kircher said. “They’re a really good team but they had to earn it tonight.”

The Red Devils have now won 56 straight games against Western New York competition, dating back to a 2013 loss to Williamsville South. Clarence (18-1-0) earned the right to play Victor (15-3-1) in the Far West Regionals at 6:30 p.m. on Friday at SUNY Geneseo’s East Field. The Blue Devils beat Fairport for the Section V title on Saturday.

The Red Devils got a goal late in the first half by Julia Darlak, another early in the second half by Gabrielle Loewer early in the second half and a huge save late in the game by Grace Fabian to get past the upset-minded Spartans on Monday.

“It was scary but we just had to think about everything we did throughout the year,” Fabian said. “We knew could pull it off.”

Clarence beat Williamsville North 8-0 on Sept. 6 and 7-0 on Sept. 23. But Red Devils coach Dave Stephan knew the playoffs weren’t going to be so easy – and even predicted as such after the semifinals.

“When you get to the playoffs, it’s not going to be an 8-0 game,” he said after a 2-0 semifinal win over Frontier last Wednesday. “It’s going to be 1-nil, 2-nil, 2-1, something like that. They’re a good team and we expect a tough match. We just hope to get through it.”

Stephan got what he expected – and ultimately what he wanted as well.

“I knew this type of game was coming; North played unbelievable today,” said Stephan, whose team has won 12 games this season by at least three goals. “They closed us up early, they pressured us, they were physical, they were fast. They’re a much better team than the first time we saw them. We were just hoping that could stick with our game plan and hopefully get by.”

After the first loss to Clarence, North went on a 13-1-1 run to reach the title game. The Spartans even surprised the large crowd by striking first when Samantha Diamond’s long ball took a weird hop and got past Fabian.

“That goal gave us some confidence to relax and play up to our abilities,” Kircher said. “That was definitely our best game of the year. The girls played their best game of the year at the right time.”

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