In the span of six days, the Marcellus boys soccer team fluctuated from boundless optimism to boundless despair.
The first condition was the byproduct of dramatic wins over bitter rivals Skaneateles and Westhill that landed the Mustangs the OHSL Liberty division championship.
But that second condition reared itself last Thursday afternoon, when the Mustangs' hopes of repeating as state Class B champion ended quite early.
Lowville, the no. 4 seed, was the perpetrator of this despair, relying on tough defense to put the no. 5 seed Mustangs out of the playoffs in a tense 1-0 affair.
Going in, the general thought was that, despite having to go on the road, Marcellus was in good shape because of its championship experience and the fact that it played a much harder schedule that Lowville did in the Frontier League.
Sure enough, the Mustangs would have most of the good chances to score, only to find that nothing was given to them. Lowville's defense caused a lot of frustration, and goalie Zach Haenlin finished with eight saves.
Early in the second half, the Red Raiders broke the 0-0 deadlock, as Spencer Miller scored off a feed from A.J. Miller. Try as it could, Marcellus could not match it, as a series of cards symbolized the team's frustration at seeing its reign come to an end.
Only once did the no. 5 seed Mustangs get to play at home in the post-season. This was in last Tuesday's opening round, where it toyed with no. 12 seed General Brown and eliminated the Lions 4-0.
Holding GB to just two shots, the Mustangs dictated the pace on its new Field Turf -- and did so while the Lions' defense zeroed in on Alex Rouse, holding him without a point.
Kevin Merriman, freed up by all the attention on Rouse, scored twice. Joe Sullivan and Evan Hughes contributed goals, too, while John Kermes, Tom Glose and Jon Schoonmaker earned assists.
Now came the long trip north, to Lowville, where title dreams would end.
Marcellus still had a fine season, going 15-4-1 with a lot of new faces in the lineup. Unlike 2005, there won't be a mass exodus of senior starters, though Merriman, Kermes, Sullivan, Ian Behm and Tom Forte are among those who will depart.
The presence of Rouse, Schoonmaker, Glose, Hughes, Joe Carelli, Brian Walter and John Henry Jackson, among others, will make the Mustangs a contender again in 2007.