By MIKE MEILER
Niagara Gazette — When head coach Tom Baia took over the Wilson girls soccer team this season, he knew he had a defense and he knew he had a goaltender in senior Grace Adams.
Baia, who coached the boys' team last year, rode Adams and the D throughout the year and was rewarded Wednesday night when a 2-1 overtime victory of Newfane clinched the Lakewomen's first Niagara-Orleans League title since 2009.
Wilson finished the regular season 14-1-1 overall, including 12-1-1 in league games. Adams finished with 11 shutouts on the season, and the team allowed only nine goals over 16 games.
"We knew we could be good defensively," Baia said. "Grace is a very technical goalie, she knows the game very well and she plays the position very smartly. She's a fantastic keeper."
Shutouts in soccer aren't always an accurate measure of a goaltender's talent, and Adams will be the first to point out her teammates' contributions to her success. Defenders Jamie Curry, Angela Goodman, Lauren Austin, Hannah Johnson, Kaylee Stoelting and Baylee Olds limited shots and scoring chances all year for their keeper.
"We've put in a lot of hard work as a team," Adams said. "You can't earn a shutout by yourself. Girls have to work together, and that's why we've had a very good season."
But Baia said there were games, such as Sept. 14's 15-save performance in a 1-0 win over second-place Akron, when Adams returned the favor.
"In the first Akron win, we started out real slow and she certainly picked us up," Baia said. "You never like to say that one player won the game, but she certainly kept us in the game with her play. They had a lot of point-blank chances. We had some matchup problems early and she kind of bailed us out until we were able to figure those things out."
The Lakewomen finished No. 1 in their league and in Western New York, at least according to the coach's poll, where Wilson is ranked the top small school. They're ranked No. 20 in the state and are preparing for next week's sectionals, where they should have a top seed.
"It's been a team effort, but certainly Grace has been the leader of that," Baia said. "We have as good a chance as anybody going forward because of our team defense and because of Grace. When you get to sectionals, your team defense carries you. If you can keep teams from scoring, you can beat anybody."
Wilson was an 8-seed heading into last year's sectionals, where it upset top-seeded Allegany-Limestone. The Lakewomen then lost in the sectionals to Newfane, which also won this year's first matchup between the two teams.
"Beating Newfane today was a big hurdle for us," Baia said. "We were happy to get it. We know there's a good possibility we could meet them down the road."