Delivering a momentous, program-altering victory is hard enough. Trying to follow that up with delivering a Section III Class B title is even harder.
Yet the Westhill girls soccer team rose to that unique challenge when it went to SUNY-Cortland and played Cazenovia in last Friday's championship game.
Deeper, quicker and sharper than the Lakers in every phase of the game, Westhill prevailed, 4-2, and claimed its first sectional championship since 2001.
From a no. 9 seed, the Warriors had shown that, no matter what the reputation of the foe, it could handle the pressure and still thrive, as it upset no. 1 seed Watertown IHC and then got a long-awaited win over three-time defending champion Marcellus in the semifinals.
Now, the key was to maintain that level of play against a Cazenovia team that, in their last meeting on Oct. 5, had won on the narrow, wind-swept Fenner Road field the Lakers call home.
Playing on a much larger field at SUNY-Cortland, Westhill was able to space out its attack and make long runs, successfully taking the Lakers out of the possession game it wanted to use.
Though it controlled most of the first half, the Warriors had nothing on the scoreboard to show for it -- at least until the last minute.
Cazenovia goalkeeper Claire Dorsey mishandled a long shot, and Westhill pounced as Carly Cooper swooped in, fed it to the middle, then watched Bridgette Dwyer pound home the goal, giving Westhill a 1-0 lead just 44.2 seconds before halftime.
Maintaining that control, the Warriors appeared to really seize the game when, midway through the second half, Cooper crushed a shot that banged off the left post into the net to make it 2-0.
But Cazenovia's Mackenzie Moore answered with a goal just 44 seconds later, setting up a frantic finish.