To win back-to-back state Class B championships and go to three consecutive state title games, the Marcellus girls soccer team had to fight through its fair share of adversity.
However, it never had to deal with a crisis like this.
Right in the middle of an undefeated season where it had risen to the top spot in the state Class B rankings, the Mustangs saw 11 of its players suspended for violations of the school's code of conduct.
All of them were forced to sit out four games, including high-profile contests against long-time rivals Westhill and Skaneateles. Just three starters -- Rachel Farneti, Bridget Dooley and Kellie Walter -- were still in the lineup.
Right after the suspensions were handed down, head coach Laurie Updike met the situation by pulling up five players from the junior varsity roster, just in time for the team's trip to Clinton last Monday afternoon.
With this makeshift lineup, the Mustangs played Clinton to a 0-0 draw. One of the newcomers, goalkeeper Megan Tock, finished with seven saves and earned a shutout.
But now came the trip to Westhill. Delighting in the fact that it didn't have to face the full-strength Mustangs, the Warriors were in control most of the way last Wednesday night, winning a 2-0 decision.
Tock again had a strong outing, as she earned 13 saves. Only Carly Cooper and Laura Zimmerman put shots past her, while the Mustangs' attack still had plenty of chances, only to get turned away as Lauren Snyder made eight saves.
Two days later, the Mustangs met Skaneateles, a team it beat 3-1 back on Sept. 5, when its full roster was in place.
The rematch had a different outcome. Marcellus played close, but the Lakers would emerge with a 2-1 victory.
Red-hot Skaneateles forward Jenna Lotkowictz scored 5:01 into the game to put her team up, 1-0, but the Mustangs answered just 1:15 later when one of the newcomers, Lyssa Flitch, passed to the middle and Kayla Schmidt poked a shot home.