Nov 06, 2007 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Should the Marcellus girls soccer team continue its run of perfection all the way to a third state Class B championship in this decade, it might have to thank the Cazenovia Lakers for giving them the biggest push toward that prize.
Three times, the Mustangs met Cazenovia — and it got tested every time, including last Friday’s Section III Class B title game at SUNY-Cortland, where Marcellus had to work all the way to the end to beat the Lakers 2-0.
As much effort as it took, though, there was still plenty of reason for head coach Laurie Updike and her players to feel satisfied about winning the team’s fourth sectional title in five years.
“This feels really good,” said Updike. “This senior class has worked so hard for this and has provided great leadership all season.”
Motivated in no small part by it stunning defeat to Westhill in the 2006 Class B semifinals, Marcellus won its first 20 games this fall, and proved far too much for any local opponent to handle — with one glaring exception.
In two regular-season meetings — a 2-1 win on Sept. 24, a 2-0 decision on Oct. 18 — Cazenovia had given the Mustangs as much fits as anyone had this season with a combination of blinding speed at the skill positions and a willingness to be aggressive — even physical.
Yet the Lakers didn’t come into the final at full strength. Star midfielder Katie Kleine broke her arm in the team’s semifinal win over Watertown IHC and, while able to play, could not start, taking away a vital part of Cazenovia’s winning formula.
Knowing this, Marcellus wasted little time in swarming the Lakers’ end, making a series of runs and using its lethal combination of size, speed and possession skills to control the flow of play.
This paid off when, 9:21 into the game, Stephanie Raven, a midfielder not accustomed to offensive heroics, took the rebound of a corner kick and lobbed a well-placed shot over the head of Cazenovia goalkeeper Clare Dorsey into the net.
“Stephanie shoots real well in practice,” said Updike. “Here, she got on the rebound and did the right thing with the ball.”
All the early action seemed to indicate another Marcellus rout. However, Cazenovia’s defense settled down and began a long stretch of shutting out the Mustangs, which gave the Lakers’ fledgling attack plenty of time to start making noise.
Toward the end of the first half, that started to happen. As Cazenovia began to make some runs, it gained more confidence, which spilled over into the second half as the attacks continued and the Mustangs were somewhat on its heels — a rare sight.
In the 59th minute, the Lakers got its best chance to tie it. Off a good pass from the right, freshman Hillary Bullock was open in front and goalkeeper Lauren Fletcher was out of position. Bullock’s shot beat Fletcher — but drifted inches wide right.
Following this, the Mustangs’ defense stepped up. The combination of Alicia Hunt, Emily Garrant and Marissa Bankey took away Cazenovia’s biggest advantage — speed — throughout the night, and kicked away most scoring attempts before they even developed.
Gradually, the Mustangs resumed its attack, and applied the clincher with 4:13 left when Sarah Holden, open in the middle, ripped a shot past Dorsey.
Everything before Cazenovia was just an elaborate prelude — and that included last Tuesday night’s Class B semifinal at Chittenango High School, where the Mustangs effectively handled no. 4 seed Lowville in a 4-0 victory over the Red Raiders.
Instead of taking just 21 seconds to score, as Chelsea Tarolli did in the quarterfinals against Westhill, the Mustangs actually waited 8:17 before Holden set up Deana Melnyczuk, on the right side, and Melnyczuk poured a shot into the left side of the net.
Less than five minutes later, on a near-identical play, Farneti made the pass to the right as Melnyczuk again powered a shot past Lowville goalie Rebecca Windover.
From there, the attacks slowed, and the Raiders actually played on even terms the rest of the first half, earning a string of good scoring opportunities that the Mustangs’ defense had to resist to make sure it didn’t get too interesting.
Midway through the second half, it was still 2-0, and a bit nervous, when Holden burst up the middle and poured in a goal to add further cushion. Not only that, but Holden would convert on a penalty kick in the late stages as the starters retreated to the bench and rested up for the bigger showdown that lay ahead.
Marcellus passed the Cazenovia test one more time, and now looks ahead to Tuesday’s regional playoff game against Section II champion Schalmont at Brodalbin-Perth, near Albany. The Mustangs need to win that game, plus a weekend regional final, so it can return to the Cortland area for next weekend’s state final four.