BATAVIA – Geneva girls soccer coach Megan Owens didn’t sugarcoat her message to her team before its game Tuesday night against Batavia.
Owens laid it out to the Vikings that if they wanted a shot at winning the Upstate Eight Conference River crown, beating the Bulldogs was a must.
Playing without injured senior captains Annie Waldoch and Molly Stanfa, both out of the lineup with foot injuries, the Vikings surged to a rather convincing 2-1 victory over host Batavia to keep their conference title hopes alive.
Megan Fitz’s goal early in the second half stood up and the Vikings dodged one of the few Batavia scoring opportunities with less than a minute to play to set up a huge match between Geneva and St. Charles North tonight.
“She told us that this is basically conference, that this is your season and if you really want to win conference and be conference champs then you have to win this game,” Fitz said. “If we lost this game, that’s it, we wouldn’t be conference champs. We knew that we had to score another one, and we did.”
Fitz’s goal came just four minutes into the second half. A stray ball found the junior’s feet and with a pair of Batavia defenders on either side, Fitz poked an off-balance shot past Bulldogs goalkeeper Jenny Scara. The goal came at the 36:11 mark of the second half and helped Geneva relax a bit after Batavia (6-7-1, 2-3 UEC River) played to a 1-1 halftime draw.
“We were on our heels a lot and lost our composure a bit but we got it back and the second half we came back fired up and ready to go and we scored,” Fitz said. “The ball was squirting around and I chipped it with my right foot and it just shot in. I think we did very well the second half versus the first half.”
Geneva (8-3-1, 2-0 UEC River) was forced to regroup at halftime after Batavia seized momentum midway through the first half with a goal at the 18:05 mark that tied the game.
Tori Renfus took Alison Grimm’s throw in from the right sideline and somehow got it past Geneva goalkeeper Sam Hauser to tie the game at 1.
“I liked the response to the goal in the first half, that was good,” Batavia coach Mark Gianfrancesco said. “I think it was off a throw and kind of slipped in there and that was great – kind of a hustle goal. I take all of those all day. We need to continue to connect on more passes and winning more balls out of the air. When we do that, we can play with these teams.”
Batavia did string together passes and win balls out of the air for a good portion of the first half, but the Vikings came out inspired in the second half and dominated play.
The Vikings had three point-blank chances in the second half that Scara skillfully covered up to help Batavia stay within a goal.
Batavia’s last-ditch push came with less than 2 minutes to go. Hauser grabbed a bounding Batavia cross with 1:47 left before watching a Bulldogs shot get deflected just wide with 35 seconds to go.
“We played very well offensively, we created a lot of opportunities and kept pressing on them,” Owens said. “Our two captains were out and the girls responded. I thought we dominated the line of play. In sloppy conditions we never stopped fighting, and I’m tremendously proud of them. They all played solid across the board, and it showed.”
Geneva scored first as Taylor Williams banged a Maggie Bodine corner kick out of midair and past Scara to give Geneva a 1-0 lead at the 28:50 mark.