Jun 02, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Despite all the scares, all the vulnerability and all the chances that opponents had to end it, the Skaneateles girls lacrosse team’s reign as Section III Class C champions continues for the sixth year in a row.
Sunday’s championship game at Solvay’s Earl Hadley Stadium perfectly fit into this narrative. Trailing long-time rival Marcellus for much of the afternoon, the Lakers rallied in the late stages and toppled the Mustangs 12-11.
Quite unlike years past, when it overwhelmed the competition, Skaneateles had to go through all kinds of internal and external challenges to claim this sectional title.
“This one was difficult to get,” said head coach Bridget Marquardt. “We had to fight every step of the way. It took a lot of learning, a lot of teaching and a lot of humility to get this.”
According to senior Shannon Tierney, it boiled down to the team’s patience and togetherness, especially after Marcellus bolted to a quick 3-0 lead.
“We tried to maintain our composure,” said Tierney. “We were patient at the start and didn’t force things. We believed in each other, and in our abilities.”
Skaneateles was charged with the difficult task of beating a tough opponent for a third time in the same season. It had knocked off Marcellus 14-8 on April 9, then survived a narrow 12-11 decision on May 9, so it was quite aware of how good the Mustangs could be.
Marcellus further made that point with the 3-0 start, which included goals by Meghan Connors and Sarah Holden just nine seconds apart. And so began a long, stressful chase that consumed the entire course of the gray afternoon.
Though not leading, Skaneateles didn’t let Marcellus get away, either. The Mustangs’ defense was dead-set on containing Jenna Lotkowictz, so Tierney and Kelsey Nangle, along with sophomore Maddy Morrissey, took over on offense, producing enough to cut Marcellus’ margin to 6-5 by halftime.
For a long while, every time Skaneateles would threaten, Marcellus would answer, going up by three goals three different times. When Kate Gosson converted a free-position goal with 11:42 left, the Lakers trailed 11-8, apparently inching toward the end of its championship reign.
Sensing this, Skaneateles reached down and remembered all the other times this spring where it faced close contests — winning some, but losing others.
“We had a lot of one-goal games this season,” said Tierney. “It taught us that we could come back.”
And so it did, starting with Tierney’s fifth goal with 9:39 left. After Lotkowictz saw a possible goal negated by a crease violation, Nangle put in her second goal with 3:29 to play, making it 11-10.
Now Morrissey took over. Marquardt said that, the day before in practice, she told Morrissey that the Mustangs would key on Lotkowictz, giving the sophomore more chances to produce.
Needless to say, Morrissey listened well. Just 34 seconds after Nangle scored, Morrissey did so, tying the game 11-11. Following a Mustang turnover, Morrissey got it once again — and with 1:41 to play, her shot eluded Marcellus goalie Natalie Scheibel and found the net, putting the Lakers ahead for the first time.
“We were really intense at the end,” said Morrissey. “We knew we could beat them.”
The Lakers’ sectional playoff gauntlet commenced last Tuesday, on its home turf, where it handled no. 8 seed Bishop Ludden in the Class C quarterfinals by a score of 16-7.
Once it went to the lead, Skaneateles emphasized ball control and patience, steadily pulling away to a 7-3 edge by halftime and maintaining that pace with the full knowledge that it couldn’t expend itself early in this crowded post-season slate.
Lotkowictz poured in five goals, adding two assists as Tierney, Nangle, Morrissey and Laura Trenti each found the net twice. Emma Hueber, Grace Kelly and Claire Gadra also scored. Molly Byrne and Stephanie Dussing accounted for most of Ludden’s offense, with three goals apiece.
Then came what promised to be an exciting Class C semifinal Thursday at West Genesee High School against no. 4 seed Cazenovia. Twice, the Laker namesakes had met in the regular season on April 8 and May 7, with Skaneateles both times scrambling to prevail.
In this third — and most important — meeting, the western Lakers needed every bit of its heart and desire to withstand the eastern Lakers’ challenge, winning by a score of 10-9 in a game that stayed in doubt until the very end.
When Skaneateles, accustomed to these pressure settings, raced out to a 3-0 lead in the game’s first six minutes, all looked to be fine — but Cazenovia quickly got even, 3-3, and the two sides traded blows for the rest of the first half.
Again, the western Lakers appeared to take control when Tierney and Katherine Pille scored late in the first half to break a 5-5 tie and Lotkowictz converted early in the second half to make it 8-5. Again, the eastern Lakers rallied, blanking Skaneateles for more than 18 minutes and catching up, 8-8, on Kendra Volz’s goal with 5:57 left.
With the season — and the championship run — in danger, Lotkowictz took over, as she had done so many other times this season.
Lotkowictz charged in for the go-ahead goal with 4:36 left, then converted again just 24 seconds later, her fourth goal of the game.
Even though Kara Cannizzaro answered with her fourth goal with 3:26 left to pull Cazenovia within one, Skaneateles would hang on. Mullen finished with 11 saves, including a stop of Lindsey Nourse’s free-position shot with a minute to play.
The senior stars — Lotkowictz, Tierney and Nangle (two goals each) — accounted for most of the Skaneateles attack. Nourse had two goals to offer Cannizzaro her support.
Two days later, with Marcellus focusing on those seniors, Morrissey had the finest moment of her high school career, giving Skaneateles another sectional title.
On Tuesday, the Lakers return to Solvay to face Canton (Section X) in the Class C regional playoffs. The winner would get the Section IV champion In Saturday’s regional final at Vestal, the last step before next weekend’s State Final Four at SUNY-Cortland.