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Freshman’s First

Donato Nets Two Goals As Thunderbirds Blank Maple Grove, 2-0

Above, Chautauqua Lake’s Taylor Donato dribbles away from Maple Grove’s Ireland Hagglund during Thursday’s CCAA Central Division girls soccer game in Mayville. P-J photos by Matt Spielman

MAYVILLE — It’s no secret Chautauqua Lake’s girls soccer team has struggled to score goals this season.

But so has everybody in the ultra-competitive Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association Central Division.

So when the Thunderbirds found the back of the net twice Thursday during their league matchup with Maple Grove, they were well on their way to victory.

Freshman Taylor Donato scored her first two varsity goals and senior keeper Hailey Roush made six saves for her fourth clean sheet in five starts this fall as Chautauqua Lake blanked the Red Dragons, 2-0.

“This league is going to be the toughest league out there. Every game is going to be a battle to win,” Chautauqua Lake head coach Cole Gleason said. ” … We’re just going to beat up on each other the whole year. Hopefully, from here on out we finish with wins.”

Above, Maple Grove’s Courtney Martin dribbles in front of Chautauqua Lake’s Erma Wolcott on Thursday. Second, Maple Grove’s Megan Fischer (11) battles Chautauqua Lake’s Alexis Jacobson for possession. P-J photos by Matt Spielman

The teams played a fairly even first half that ended 0-0. It was similar to the first time they met on Oct. 6 when Maple Grove won, 1-0, on a late penalty kick to open the season.

“We were just trying to deny the ball. It’s all about positioning,” Maple Grove head coach Mike Burr said. “When we positioned well, we kept the ball in our offensive end.”

Donato had the best chance of the opening 40 minutes when she got ahead of her defender and went in alone on Red Dragons keeper Kasie Kraig, but the junior made a diving stop to her right to keep the game scoreless.

After halftime, the Thunderbirds (3-2-1, 3-2-1) broke through in the 46th minute as junior Emma Lindsey sent a cross into the 18-yard box that Donato — despite being one of the shorter players on the field — somehow got a head on to send into the back of the net.

“It’s a desire to win. I can see the fire in her,” Gleason said of Donato. “It’s awesome to see someone that young that has that desire to be there.”

Donato had another point-blank chance midway through the second half, but she was once again stonewalled by Kraig.

With less than 17 minutes remaining, Donato made it 2-0. After taking possession of the ball in somewhat of a scramble in close, Donato’s first shot was blocked by a Red Dragons defender. Not to be outdone, Donato gathered again and her second shot deflected off a Maple Grove defender into the bottom corner of the goal.

“I pulled her up this year as a ninth-grader. I told her she had to earn her spot and she did,” Gleason said. ” … I kept telling her game after game, ‘the goals are going to come, the goals are going to come.’ Finally it just happened today.”

Donato, senior Calla Zarpentine and senior Kylie Keefe now each have two goals on the season, accouting for all six of Chautauqua Lake’s goals in its six games.

“I’ve watched the film. … We instruct them on what we want to do. It’s just a matter of making those runs that other teams are making,” Burr said. “They’re doing it better than we are. They’re executing better than we are and they’re playing unselfish. Until we figure that out and we stop trying to dribble through people, we’re going to struggle.”

The Red Dragons (3-3-0, 3-3-0), who now have been held scoreless in their past three games, were kept from any “Grade A” scoring chances due in large part to the play of Thunderbirds junior sweeper Sienna Collins.

“She’s probably one of the top sweepers I’ve seen. She’s really stepped up this year being a captain and a communicator. I really don’t worry with her back there at all,” Gleason said. “We actually today played a little bit more of an offensive press up because I was so confident our defense could hold.”

The teams each have four games remaining and have to finish with at least a .500 record to qualify for the Section VI playoffs.

“We’re certainly capable of doing well and certainly capable of doing some damage in the playoffs, but we’ve got to get to the playoffs first,” Burr said. “We knew this league was going to be very, very even. It’s a matter of scraping ourselves up, regrouping and working to get better.”

Chautauqua Lake will take on Westfield/Brocton next Tuesday in Brocton. The teams played to a 0-0 draw in their first matchup Oct. 8.

“We just woke up. … This is the team we knew we were from the start,” Gleason said. ” … They just had grit today. … They never backed down.”

Maple Grove, on the other hand, will travel to North Collins on Saturday morning. In their first matchup with the Eagles, the Red Dragons scored five of their seven goals on the season.

“At this point, we are trying to find our identity. We’ve slipped along the way. We’ve got to regain that back,” Burr said. “Right now, we’re not playing our best. We have to start believing in each other and playing as a team.”

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