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.