Everyone associated with the Cicero-North Syracuse field hockey team has waited a lifetime for the opportunity it gets this weekend at Alliance Bank Stadium.
In front of all kinds of local support, the Northstars will seek the state Class A championship, something that can only be attained with a great deal of talent, plus the requisite amounts of luck, patience and good execution.
Given how long CNS has pushed to get this far, it only seemed fitting that last Saturday's Class A regional final against Section II champion Niskayuna at Rome Free Academy Stadium would require a while lot of extra work -- two overtimes, in fact.
But when Katie Carrick put home a goal late in that second OT, the Northstars had pulled off a dramatic 2-1 victory over the Warriors that sent the program to new heights.
Blessed with speed and skill, Niskayuna had every intention of running CNS ragged, only to find that the Northstars had an extra degree of conditioning and resilience.
This served CNS well throughout this rain-soaked showdown, especially in the first half, when it withstood a series of early Warrior attacks to keep it scoreless.
Midway through the half, the Northstars began its own push -- and it paid off when Stephanie Sylvia got open at the point and, taking from Maggie McDonald, ripped it into the net, her 19th goal this season.
For the rest of the first half, CNS was playing defense, a condition only made worse when goalie Nicole Gillette bruised her knee in a net scramble.
Knowing she couldn't go out, Gillette would maintain the shutout for a long time, showing lots of heart and inspiring teammates like Allee Emmi, Lucia Meola and Amanda Obrist into some of their best defense of the season.
So it remained 1-0 well into the second half, and as regulation time wound down, CNS began to get excited, knowing how close it was to reaching the final four.