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WEEDSPORT | Weedsport controlled the game from the opening whistle, but struggled to finish.

The Warriors finally broke through for a goal with a little more than two minutes left in the first half, and held on to top rival Port Byron/Union Springs, 1-0, at Weedsport High School Friday.

"We're not finishing," said Warriors coach Theresa Leonardi. "We dominated -- the first 10 or 12 minutes it was inside the 25. We didn't finish. That's something we need to work on, because when you get opportunities like that against a team this good and you don't convert, that can come back to bite you."

The Warriors hemmed the Panthers in their own zone for most of the first half, and earned eight penalty corners.

After Port Byron/Union Springs got its first offensive opportunities late in the first half, Weedsport took control again. Inside the circle, Lexi Randall's looping cross pass found Morgan Besner, who knocked it into the left side of the net.

The Panthers had sporadic opportunities throughout the second half, but couldn't net the equalizer. For Leonardi, the game came down to her defense, with Jordan Lally and May Maloof leading the charge.

"That's what made the difference in the game," Leonardi said. "We had a couple kids step up and keep them from maximizing on their opportunities."

Panthers coach Mindy Gilbert believed her team played better in the second half.

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"We did have some opportunities, we just couldn't finish," Gilbert said. "First half, we started slow and Weedsport dominated in their offensive end. We did better the second half, we just couldn't finish."

Weedsport's Abby Marsden and Port Byron/Union Springs' Kourtney Verdi each finished with three saves.

"She started from scratch, and she has held her own," Gilbert said of Verdi, who strapped on the pads for the first time this season. "Usually experience supersedes that, but she has stepped up and did what she could and held them to one goal."

Weedsport wore special purple jerseys in its fifth annual Drive Away Cancer game. The teams combined to raise $3,129, bringing the five-year total to more than $10,000.

"It's very important to all of us," Leonardi said. "I think everybody's life has been personally touched by cancer. We recognize we're fortunate that we get to play a game while others are fighting much bigger battles. We wanted to celebrate those people, what they're going through and what some of them are still going through, and take the opportunity to be grateful for what we have too."

While Port Byron/Union Springs (5-3) hosts East Syracuse-Minoa Monday, Weedsport (9-1-1) begins a three-game week by hosting Homer Tuesday.

"We're happy where we're at," Leonardi said. "But we recognize there's plenty of room for improvement."

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Sports writer Jeremy Houghtaling can be reached at 282-2256 or at jeremy.houghtaling@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @CitizenHough.

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