Jun 02, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Saddled with as many expectations as anyone could bear, the West Genesee girls lacrosse team continually lives up to them.
As a result, the Wildcats can lay claim to a 45-game win streak, with a state Class A title included in that streak — and another that just might be on the way.
Taking a gigantic step toward that ultimate goal, WG shook off a bad start and overwhelmed archrival Fayetteville-Manlius in last Sunday’s Section III Class A championship game at Solvay’s Earl Hadley Stadium, beating the Hornets 13-7.
Even though it’s the fifth sectional title claimed by head coach Bob Elmer in his tenure, he said the satisfaction never gets old.
“It feels good every year,” he said. “This team showed a lot of heart and just kept playing hard. They’re confident, not cocky.”
And even if the Wildcats felt any small amount of cockiness going into the title game, F-M took that away in the opening minutes.
Playing with all kinds of fire and determination, the Hornets got goals from Emily Pierson, Caroline Helmer and Morgan Axenfeld in the game’s first seven minutes to race in front 4-0, the kind of deficit WG has rarely faced this season.
“F-M came out like gangbusters,” said Elmer. “They came out ready to play, but our kids definitely adjusted.”
The adjustment involved isolating F-M’s defenders one-on-one, since the Hornets were dead-set on keeping Kiersten Tupper and Ariel Kramer from getting any open looks. Given the amount of offensive weapons WG possesses, that proved to be a sound strategy.
Lauren Welch got the Wildcats on the board, and back-to-back goals by Amanda Cizenski closed the gap. Then, just before halftime, Welch connected a second time, and Cizenski won the ensuing draw, ran down and scored just 11 seconds later to put WG in front.
Still, that 5-4 halftime lead was thin. But a single turn of events, in the opening moments of the second half, swung the contest permamently in the Wildcats’ favor.
F-M won the draw, and the ball went out to Jenn Williams, who was all alone as she made a sprint toward the Wildcats’ net. Williams took the shot — and WG goalie Kelly Fucillo made an outstanding save.
Not content with that, Fucillo made a terrific outlet pass that set up a fast break. Finishing it off, Karen Bianchi found Kellyn Savage in front of the Hornets’ net, and Savage scored.
In a matter of seconds, a possible tie had turned into a 6-4 Wildcats lead, and within six minutes the margin had grown to 9-4. Try as it could, F-M never got closer than three goals again.
“That (Fucillo’s save) was the turning point of the game,” said Tupper.
Maria DiFato agreed. “It was very important,” she said. “It got us excited and picked up our spirits and we just went off.”
DiFato, in particular, got hot, earning all three of her goals in the second half, plus an assist. Welch led with four goals and one assist. Cizenski also found the net three times, and her domination of the draws helped the Wildcats overcome its early struggles.
Over time, WG’s defense also toughened up, as Lauren Corso, Nicole Perkins, Steph Datellas and Laura Luchessi kept F-M off the board for more than 25 minutes of time as the Wildcats surged in front.
All of this began in last Tuesday’s Class A quarterfinals when, in its last home outing of the season, the Wildcats pummeled no. 8 seed Henninger/Nottingham 17-2.
Six different players produced multiple goals, with DiFato leading the charge as she got three goals and two assists.
Tupper backed up her two goals with three assists as Bianchi, Welch, Cizenski and Sarah Brown each found the net twice. Carly Motondo also got three assists as Kramer, Karlyn Tupper, Morgan Corso and Kellyn Savage all took turns scoring.
Two days later, the Wildcats went to Marcellus for the Class A semifinal against Liverpool. After struggling through much of the season, the Warriors got hot in May and carried that over into a 12-8 win at Baldwinsville in the quarterfinal round.
But the Wildcats made sure Liverpool’s run ended right there, taking control in a hurry and not letting up until it had an 18-6 victory over the Warriors in the books.
Much of the game centered on how Liverpool’s star junior goalie, Mikey Meagher (who had 17 saves against B’ville) would fare against the wave of Wildcat attackers.
The wave prevailed, especially in a lopsided first half where WG had the ball most of the time — and converted most of the time, too. By the time they reached the break, the Wildcats had a 12-1 edge and could breeze through the rest of the outing.
Welch and Kiersten Tupper led the charge, with Welch earning five goals and one assist and Tupper gaining seven assists.
DiFato, Cizenski, Motondo and Savage each found the net twice, while Kramer gained a goal and two assists. Bianchi, Brown, Karlyn Tupper and Carly Graham notched one goal apiece. WG’s defense, as a whole, did a terrific job on Liverpool’s top player, Jennifer VanderMeulen, holding her to one goal and one assist.
The sectional title is just the first step, of course. On Saturday, WG will meet Section IV champion Ithaca in the Class A regional finals at Vestal High School, near Binghamton. The winner advances to the June 13-14 state final four at SUNY-Cortland — a place where the Wildcats have won four state titles, and are dead-set on getting a fifth.