In its return to the Section III Class A playoffs, the Chittenango boys soccer team aimed to stay around at least into the second week, to show that the program's prominence was fully restored.
And that's exactly what the Bears pulled off, not allowing a goal in either of last week's post-season outings and relying on a superb defense, plus senior experience, to move itself within two wins of its first sectional title since 2001.
Since it plays its home games on Field Turf, no. 6 seed Bears didn't care that more than an inch of rain fell in advance of last Tuesday night's opening-round game against no. 11 seed Indian River.
Dry or soaked, Chittenango was ready, and showed it by taking out the Warriors with a steady performance and a 3-0 victory.
The Bears stayed patient and edged in front 1-0 by halftime. Indian River goalkeeper John Pazillo made 12 saves, but Chittenango did beat him twice in the second half to give itself enough breathing space.
Tom Wilkowski earned two of those goals, with Luca Bottoni adding the other. Dylan Mann and Greg Lang split time in goal, combining for seven saves as defenders like Wilkowski, Eric Murray, Ben Myers and Tom Connelly offered enough protection to preserve the shutout.
Three days later, the Bears found itself on grass again, meeting no. 3 seed Whitesboro in a Class A quarterfinal where the rain made another appearance.
Ignoring the precipitation and the growing pressure, Chittenango kept its poise and took out the host Warriors in a 1-0 decision.
Much of the first half was a standoff, both sides displaying strong resistance as the field conditions got worse.
Less than three minutes before halftime, though, Bryce Martin, who was quiet in the opening round against Indian River, flicked a shot past Whitesboro goalkeeper Scott Barry to put the Bears in front.
And for the rest of the contest, Wilkowski, Murray, Myers and Connelly combined to make that slim margin hold up, protecting Chittenango's net. Mann was prepared, too, as he recorded eight saves for his seventh shutout of the fall.
Looking for more surprises, the Bears take aim at no. 3 seed New Hartford in Wednesday's Class A semifinal. The winner gets East Syracuse-Minoa or V-V-S in Friday's final, scheduled to be played at SUNY-Cortland.