Nov 02, 2006 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
In the movies, a sports team traditionally starts out as an underdog, works its way to the top, has a couple of near-misses, and finally ascends to the top with some dramatic last-second goal or overtime finish.
But to the followers of Cazenovia’s field hockey team, this wasn’t a work of fiction. It really happened, right in front of their eyes.
Denied the Section III Class B championship in both 2004 and ’05, the Lakers pushed its way to the title in the most exciting way possible, beating Holland Patent 3-2 in overtime last Wednesday night in the title game at Cicero-North Syracuse’s Bragman Stadium.
What will always be remembered is Jaimie Purdy’s goal in the last second of regulation play, and Brittany Furlong’s subsequent game-winner early in OT that ignited a jubilant celebration.
“We all wanted this,” said Furlong. “It’s been what we’ve been working for since pre-season, and for the seniors, it was our last chance.”
Purdy, one of those seniors, said the victory would silence those who doubted that the Lakers could claim a championship.
“It means that we’ve made it, and that we’ve proved that we’re an excellent team,” she said.
Those doubts were real, though, after the Lakers had suffered Class B final losses to Vernon-Verona-Sherrill (in 2004) and to this same Holland Patent team on this same CNS field one year ago.
Head coach Lorraine Scheftic said that, in each of those previous finals, her team just wasn’t as ready the way this group, with more than a dozen seniors on the roster, was.
“I’m just happy it happened to these girls,” said Scheftic. “This year, we were prepared for it.”
That involved plenty of scouting of the 18-0 Golden Knights during the season, on the calculation that Cazenovia and HP would meet again in the finals. Sure enough, it happened.
Quickly, Cazenovia went out in front when, 6:39 into the game, a long shot from the point rebounded to Rebecca DeMario, standing just to the left of the net, and DeMario poked it into the net.
Gradually, the Golden Knights began to attack more. That would pay off when, late in the half, Lindsey Jester’s slap shot off a penalty corner slammed in, tying it at 1-1, where it stayed until halftime.
Much of the second half belonged to HP. It attacked in waves, as the Lakers found it difficult to clear the ball out of its own end. Still, defenders Breanna Smith, Lauren Colligan, Kate Webber and Dena Beacham kept the game even.
With 8:28 left, though, Nichole Quigley deflected Jester’s shot from the point past Margaux Hoagland, putting the Golden Knights up 2-1. Without establishing some kind of attack before the end, the Lakers looked bound to come up short again.
With 2:20 left, Scheftic called a time-out, and had simple instructions for her players.
“I told them to settle down, then take a deep breath, then concentrate and play our game,” the coach said.
Refreshed, Cazenovia bore down on HP’s net, drawing enough chances to draw out the clock and set up one last, make-or-break penalty corner.
What followed will be talked about for a long time. A series of pitch-perfect passes set up Purdy for one last shot. She swung — and it found the net as time expired.
“I was just hoping that it would go in,” said Purdy. “When it did, I was just screaming. It was such a big rush.”
Giddy with excitement after snatching victory away from HP, the Cazenovia players charged back to the sidelines to get the instructions for the seven-on-seven overtime session, and got more timely words from their coach.
“(I told them) nice girls aren’t going to finish last this time, and that you’re going to win,” said Scheftic.
They nearly didn’t. HP initiated a three-person break early in the OT, but just as the Knights were to take the shot, Colligan made a remarkable stop, keeping her team alive.
Moments later, Furlong found herself to the right of the other net. She shot, and the ball eluded HP goalie Abby Bradley. Within seconds, the Laker players piled on each other, celebrating the biggest victory in the program’s history.
Now with a sectional banner among its collection, Cazenovia got a long and well-deserved break — 10 days, to be exact — before it goes to Rome Free Academy Stadium for this Saturday’s Class B regional final against the Section II (Albany area) champions. The winner of that game advances to the state final four at Alliance Bank Stadium on Nov. 17 and 18.