Local soccer stars cap stellar careers with All-Star game

Photo by Tim Frank Dunkirk forward Emilee Hanlon controls the ball for the Blue Team in Sunday’s Chautauqua County Senior All Star soccer game in Jamestown.

Simon Olson placed his Most Valuable Player trophy on the track that surrounded Strider Field on Sunday afternoon and joined his Maple Grove teammates for a photo opportunity.

In the middle of the group shot was Cara Abbey, the Red Dragons’ coach during the season and one of the coaches for the victorious Blue Team in the 18th annual Chautauqua County Senior Soccer Game.

Although the temperature didn’t break 40 degrees and a light rain fell through most of the contest, it didn’t dampen Abbey’s postgame enthusiasm one bit.

“It has been a lot of fun this weekend,” she said. “It’s very important for the boys to come together and just have a weekend where they can have fun and become friends.”

For the record, second-half goals seven minutes apart by Jason Genovese (Fredonia) and Alex Barnes (Jamestown) stood up as the Blue Team held off the White Team, 2-1.

But, really, there were no losers in this contest or the one featuring the girls that preceded it.

While Olson was named the boys MVP for the victorious Blue Team, Esteban Diaz (Southwestern) earned the same recognition for the boys White Team as he scored its only goal at the 15:42 mark, courtesy of a penalty kick.

The tally closed the gap to one goal, but the White Team, which controlled play for the rest of the game, couldn’t punch in the equalizer.

In the girls game, the Blue Team parlayed three second-half goals within six minutes of each other into a 3-1 victory over the White Team.

“We had that spark,” said the Blue Team’s Emilee Hanlon (Dunkirk). “We came out fast and hard for the first 10 minutes and that’s what you need to do after the halftime.”

Finding the back of the net for the Blue Team were Claire Roosa (Randolph) off a corner kick from Keira Johnson (Jamestown); Karen Johnson (Southwestern) after a scrum in front of the goal; and Maddie Engel (Fredonia). Those three tallies stood up the rest of the way. Maddie Sohl (Frewsburg) of the White Team trimmed the deficit to 3-1 at the 9:39 mark, but the White Team could get no closer.

Hanlon was selected the Blue Team MVP, displaying the speed and athleticism that has her destined for the University of Tennessee next year where she will play softball.

“The kid has worked relentlessly in her preparation,” said Blue Team coach Brett Gould (Fredonia). “There were a lot of college scouts here today and (Hanlon’s decision to go to Tennessee) is probably going to break their hearts, because they wanted to talk to that girl.”

Chelsey Vincent (Falconer) was selected the White Team MVP.

In Gould’s eyes, though, the weekend transcended what happened during the games.

“It’s a culmination of all the hard work, all the effort,” he said. “I think it’s as much for the parents as it is for the kids. I told the kids before the match that as much as this day is for them, there is probably going to be a lot of sniffling up in the stands, because (the parents) have watched them grow up and this is one of the closing points. For some of them, it will be the last game they’ll play.”

For even those who call it a career, Gould maintains that the lessons learned on the pitch will last a lifetime.

“Soccer is a conduit, it’s a vessel, it’s an opportunity to learn how to be better kids, better citizens, better people,” he said. “It’s a teaching tool, just as much as a science classroom is and just as much as a musical stage is.

“I tell people all the time that I’m a teacher, but my classroom has grass and turf on the floor.”

One lesson learned came near the midway point of the first half of the girls game when a White Team player fell hard to the turf and ultimately left Strider Field on a cart. Before she did so, the girls on both teams lined up to offer their support to their injured peer.

“When they went over, (they did so) to give her some love and a fist bump to let her know that we were thinking of her,” Gould said. “It was kind of a special moment.”

That moment demonstrated sportsmanship, which is ultimately what the Senior Soccer Game has been about for the last 18 years anyway.

NOTES: In addition to Abbey and Gould, the other coaches were Paul Sellari of Fredonia (Blue Team girls), Rob Corwin of Chautauqua Lake and Mike Burr of Maple Grove (White Team girls), Zachery Meadows of Dunkirk (Blue Team boys) and Dan Molfino of Cassadaga Valley/Falconer and Dave Pihlblad of Pine Valley (White Team boys). … In addition to receiving trophies, each of the game MVPs were also the recipients of a $250 Sports4Kids scholarship, presented by Dan Gullotti of the Jamestown law firm of Fessenden, Laumer & DeAngelo. … The officials were Roy Newman, Jerome Lee Yaw and Lionel Alfaro. … Sponsors were The Jock Shop, The Post-Journal, Sports4Kids, Pepsi Cola Inc., Johnny’s Lunch and the Jamestown Soccer Boosters.