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A SPECIAL NIGHT AS HORSEHEADS PAYS TRIBUTE TO A FORMER PLAYER (8 PHOTOS) (2021-09-14)

By Brian Fees
Southern Tier Sports Report
The players came onto the field with deep emotions. Senior Lauren Forester wrapped her arms around three of her teammates and they just stood, taking in the moment.

The Horseheads girls soccer team were in their new stadium, getting their first chance to play on the turf, and under the bright lights.

On Monday those lights reflected off the image on the back of their jerseys. The image of angel wings and the initials MIR inside of a heart.

There was more than just a new stadium, or a tough opponent in Corning on the Blue Raiders minds. Monday night was to remember one of their own. A night to remember 2020 graduate Miranda Novitsky, a Horseheads star soccer player who was killed, along with her father Harold, in an accident on July 3 on their way to a travel soccer game.

Novitsky was one of the Blue Raiders standouts in high school, who had originally committed to Division I Canisius College, before later deciding on Geneseo.

As the teams went through warmups the rain came down heavy.

For some teams it would damper their spirits. But, there were the Horseheads players, smiling, dancing, cheering each other on through warmups.

That, Horseheads coach Lee Spencer says was what Novitsky would have been doing. And, on Monday, the Blue Raiders players played like Novitsky would.

“We talked in our pregame about Miranda a little bit,” Spencer said. “I just said, she didn’t care about what, about when, where or why, if she was playing, she was happy. So just take that energy and go out and play, and that’s what they did.”

When she played for Horseheads Novitsky was a standout player, a star who lead the Blue Raiders.

“She was a great player,” Spencer said. “She was one of the top in the area. She originally committed to Division I, going to Canisius. Then that fell through, Covid hit and everything changed and she ended up going to Geneseo. But, she was a tremendous soccer player. It didn’t matter where you put her on the field, midfield, defense, attack, she excelled.

“She was the one where every team would say they have Miranda and they were looking t her. She was one of the top players in the area, so she was a big piece of our programs past. And, anytime you lose a piece like that, especially tragically on the way to a soccer game, that’s really rough. The girls went out on their own and they are doing hair bands to remember her by. We always preach family from modified on up so anytime family loses anything, we want to support.”

The game had a donation table set up for the Miranda Novitsky Memorial Soccer Scholarship Fund.

“It is a scholarship fund that her family stated after she passed away to give a scholarship to a soccer player in the area,” Spencer said. “We wanted to do something to do our part to say, ‘hey, she’s always going to be one of us, we are going to support it anyway we can.’”

Before the game Novitsky’s mother, Lisa, was on the field for a moment of silence to remember her daughter. It was a moment that meant a lot to Horseheads players, past and present.

“Her mom was here before the game for our moment of silence,” Spencer said. “She was out her on the field for us. A couple of my former players were really close to her as well. I actually had three of them on FaceTime so they could be here as well. It was really good.”

The magical night culminated with a special goal by Tess Eisner as the ball took a bounce and ended up on her feet in front of the net just under a minute into the first of two ten minute overtime periods. Eisner buried the shot giving the Blue Raiders a 1-0 win over Corning.

It capped a nearly perfect night for the Blue Raiders.

“If we would have done it in regulation instead of overtime I would have been happier,” Spencer said. “But, it was great.”

After goalkeeper Ashley Friend and the defense secured the win, the players erupted in celebration. Friend ran from the goal only to be mobbed by her teammates, and the bench raced over to join in. The team then headed over toward the goal for a team photo where there special yellow jerseys in tribute of Novitsky.

The energy in warmups, the celebration after the game, all night Spencer could see that the emotions of the night had given something extra to his team.

“You couldn’t ask for ay more, it was like having the electricity you needed,” he said. “They had an extra boost in their step for sure.”
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IN TOP PHOTO: Horseheads Lauren Forester wraps her arms around three teammates before Monday's game against Corning. . . PHOTOS BY BRIAN FEES



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