PULASKI — The Pulaski Academy and Central School (PACS) girls soccer team delivered a fitting senior night performance last week to cap off the careers of a culture-shifting class in triumphant fashion.
The Blue Devils beat Cato-Meridian, 6-0, in their final home game of the season on Oct. 15 — receiving goals from a quadrant of seniors that have scored or assisted on all but one goal during a breakthrough campaign — to produce their second-highest scoring output and secure their sixth shutout of the season.
Pulaski ended the regular season with a 9-5 overall record and placed second behind Bishop Grimes in the Onondaga High School League Patriot National Division, finishing one win shy of claiming the program’s first-ever league title.
The Blue Devils returned to the postseason after winning just three games a season ago, and were announced as the No. 9 seed for the Section 3 Class C playoffs. They were scheduled to begin with a game at eighth-seeded Immaculate Heart Central in Watertown earlier this week.
“(The seniors) really bought in early last spring that their time was running out and they really had to work or they weren’t going to get what they wanted out of their careers,” said Jake LeBeau, in the midst of his second season as Pulaski girls varsity soccer coach and his eighth year overall with the program.
“I think they’ve had that impact on the younger kids where they understand: ‘OK maybe I’m only a freshman but my time here is finite and I want to do what I can with this time,’” he added. “So I think in a lot of ways they were a program-changing group.”
Mariah McConnell and Krysta Glazer scored two goals apiece in the senior-night victory, while Allie Magee delivered a goal and an assist, and Emily Delaney added a goal.
The four seniors have scored or assisted on every Pulaski goal but one this season, while classmate Lexi Robinson has contributed to a strong defense on the back end.
“The team really deserves this win, and I wouldn’t have wanted anything more than this,” McConnell said. “This year is definitely a highlight, and I’ll never forget it. This is definitely my favorite team that I’ve ever been on.”
McConnell and Delaney, each nearing the end of their fourth varsity season, scored 13 goals apiece to lead the Blue Devils, while Magee tallied a team-best 13 assists and Glazer generated six goals to go with five assists. Robinson helped a defense that posted six shutouts in front of junior goalie Abby Jordal, who tallied 198 saves at a rate of 94 percent.
With the emotional senior-night game intact during the closing minutes, LeBeau removed each senior for a substitute to allow them one last applause from the home crowd and to greet them individually with a thank you for their contributions.
“They’re unique in the sense that they’re really committed to the sport of soccer,” said Jake LeBeau, the son of Pulaski’s previous coach, Barb LeBeau. “Soccer has been kind of a tertiary sport at Pulaski, it was sort of the thing that most groups do for six or seven weeks out of the year to take a break from the sports that they play year-round, and for the most part, this group’s favorite sport is soccer and they love soccer and were committed to it.”
Pulaski’s success was especially rewarding for many of the seniors that overcame various injuries and ailments in the past two seasons. McConnell was held out for almost all of 2018 while Delaney missed a portion of the season with an ankle injury.
Magee, a third-year varsity contributor, fractured her wrist earlier this season but was able to return with a protective cover in time for the final home game of her career. The varsity mainstays credited the team’s increased focus on preseason training dating back to last winter for this season’s breakthrough.
“We all worked as a team to get to where we wanted to be,” Delaney said. “We’ve worked hard to get here and we all work together when we’re on the field.”
The Blue Devils have already posted their highest win total in at least four seasons and appeared in the state rankings for a three-week stint earlier this year.
“We all click so well together and work well on the field, and it’s so nice to play for a team like that,” said Glazer, also a three-year veteran of the varsity team. “Everyone is constantly communicating with each other and that plays a big role. … That’s the biggest thing, when you can work with other people the way that we have worked together this year, it just clicks.”
Magee added: “Our defense works really well with each other to get to the ball and get it up to give us chances to shoot. We all just work so much better together this year.”