Through all the adversity that popped up along in the way -- especially injuries to key players -- the Marcellus girls soccer team kept its dream of an undefeated run to its third state Class B championship in five years flickering to the very end.
And it took another undefeated team -- from Briarcliff -- to end that dream, as it beat the Mustangs 2-1 in a riveting state Class B final Saturday at Tompkins County Community College in Dryden.
Framed amid the heartbreak and tears associated with coming so far, only to fall just short, was a general amazement that Marcellus had gone this far.
"I couldn't be any prouder of them," said head coach Laurie Updike. "They played really hard and left it all on the field."
Mustang fans knew this, too. As the players accepted the second-place medals and plaque, the cheers were just as loud as they would have been had Marcellus won, for they all knew that the entire season had been quite a struggle.
"It was the best season ever," said goalkeeper Lauren Fletcher. "We didn't think we would make it this far, but we wanted to stay as long as we could. Second place isn't that bad."
Just to reach the title game, the Mustangs had to fight through a long, cold battle with Bayport-Blue Point (Section XI) in Friday's semifinal round at SUNY-Cortland, needing a shoot-out to prevail after playing the Phantoms to a 0-0 draw.
With temperatures in the 30s, snow flying through the air and the wind gusting past 20 miles per hour, both teams shivered, and the offenses struggled to establish anything.
Playing into the wind in the first half, Marcellus had only sporadic attacks. But its defense, led by Alicia Hunt, Marissa Bankey, Stephanie Raven and Emily Garrant, thwarted every Bayport thrust, keeping the game scoreless. it was the teams' 12th consecutive shutout.