Ending a six-year Section III championship drought was, for the Cicero-North Syracuse boys soccer team, a heavy burden lifted away.
But the Northstars wanted more -- namely, a trip to the National Soccer Fame in Oneonta for the state Class AA final four.
It would never get that far.
Bethlehem, the Section II champions, used timely defensive plays to frustrate CNS, leading to a 1-0 defeat in last Friday night's Class AA regional final at West Genesee.
Six days had passed since Joe Viviano had put home the overtime goal against Fayetteville-Manlius that gave CNS the Section III AA title.
That victory had come with a price, though, as star sophomore Mike Mastriano had torn a knee ligament. Marcus DeBottis took his spot in the lineup for Bethlehem.
Despite the long trip from the Albany suburbs, more than 200 fans, dressed in the Eagles' black-and-orange colors, came to add an extra note of emotion to an already tense atmosphere.
Both sides witnessed a riveting first half where the pattern would be set -- CNS relentless and aggressive, Bethlehem patient and opportunistic.
Fully exploiting the fact that the Eagles hadn't played a game on an artificial surface all season, CNS was more comfortable in the early going, gradually building its attack as DeBottis, Anthony DeSalvo and Jeff Gilbert got plenty of chances to run.
In the 17th minute, that almost paid off. Gilbert ran in, forcing Bethlehem goalie Jason Daniels out of his net to make the stop, but the ball came loose. Somehow, Daniels ran back and caught the rebound before it went behind him into the net.
That great stop became more important when, in the 28th minute, Bryan White culminated a series of accurate Eagle passes by poking the ball around Ryan Goettel and finding the net.
From that point forward, Bethlehem would get nothing more, as CNS defenders Ryan Strader, Chris Farruggio and Domenico Vitale would protect the net and disrupt anything the Eagles tried.