Andes girls shock Candor, fall to defending champs

By John Bernhardt
They came. They saw. They conquered.
The Andes girls’ soccer team faced a daunting challenge in the first round of the Section IV playoffs. Having reached the Sectionals for the first time in over a decade, the 12th seeded Lady Mountaineers squared off last week Tuesday against fifth-seeded Candor. But, that’s only part of the story. Candor is located at the farthest reaches of the Section, and the Andes ladies traveled two-and-a-half hours to even get to the game.
Andes coaches Sandra Noonan and Tom Little changed their warm-up routine to shake out the riding numbness and get their charges going. The pregame alterations seemed to be just what the doctor ordered as the Mountaineers brought their A game from the opening kickoff.
Offensively, Andes leading scorer Mariah Ruff had to enjoy playing a team that had never seen her play before. Although Ruff was marked well throughout the contest, the eighth-grade sparkplug shook free enough to score three goals for Andes.
Ruff scored her first goal from the middle of the field in front of the nets with 16:16 to play in the opening half. The lead almost lasted until the half, but Candor tied things up when Kendra Wagstaff delivered with just one minute to play.
Ruff was at it again just after half time. The spunky striker put Andes back in front, 2-1, scoring again less than three minutes into the final half.
Great defensive play and work in the goal by Jenna Weaver protected the advantage for most of the half. But, a penalty kick would be more than the Andes defense could handle. Wagstaff converted the free kick to tie the score with only four minutes left in regulation time.
Andes was undaunted, and Ruff delivered again, minutes into the first overtime. This time a defensive clear was stopped by Ruff and tapped into the nets for the game winning score. Ruff’s third score came with 4:44 to play in the first overtime. The Lady Mountaineer defense held fast for the rest of the first extra frame and all 10 minutes of the second, preserving the dramatic, 3-2, victory.
The game marked the sixth time this season the Andes girls played in overtime. The magical Andes’ run came to a close Friday in Edmeston as the Mountaineers faced the defending New York State champions. Edmeston used speed and power to show why they are the team to beat once again, besting Andes, 5-0, in a game played on the Panthers’ home field.