Jun 15, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Shortly after winning its second consecutive state Class A championship, the West Genesee girls lacrosse team returned home to a hero’s welcome, complete with escorts and salutes from the Camillus police and fire departments.
A few hours later, when the West Genesee boys lacrosse team came home from its state Class a title conquest on Long Island, they got the same grand greeting.
All in all, June 14, 2008 was a glorious day to be a Wildcat. For the third time this decade, West Genesee is the proud home to both state Class A lacrosse champions, the feat having also been accomplished in 2002 and 2003.
It started with the boys Wildcats coming from behind to beat Syosset 11-7 in its title game at Hofstra University, and continued later that afternoon with the girls Wildcats staging its own rally to fight past Farmingdale 13-12 at SUNY-Cortland.
The numbers both programs have achieved is quite staggering. While WG’s girls have earned back-to-back state titles, won 48 games in a row and have five overall state championships this decade, this marks the 15th time the boys Wildcats, under the direction of Hall of Fame coach Mike Messere, has gone to the summit.
For all those previous successes, though, what drove the WG boys this spring was the memory of losing back-to-back state finals to West Islip in 2006 and 2007. After a rough first half of the season, mainly caused by the long absence of star attackers Ryan Barber and Mike Fetterly, the Wildcats hit full gear once Barber and Fetterly returned in mid-May.
WG breezed to a seventh consecutive Section III Class A title, then worked hard in the state playoffs, needing a strong fourth quarter to shake off Vestal and a lot of perseverance down the stretch to edge Canandaigua 11-10 in last Thursday’s state semifinal.
As is their custom, all the Wildcat players got Mohawk-style haircuts before traveling to Hofstra. They knew Syosset, who had ended West Islip’s quest for a state three-peat, then rallied to beat Yorktown in the state semifinals, would be quite formidable, even if it had far less experience in big games than WG did.
Sure enough, after the Wildcats bolted to a 2-0 lead and controlled most of the first quarter, the Braves took over in the second period, winning six consecutive face-offs and holding WG without a shot for more than 10 minutes as it streaked ahead, 5-2.
By the early part of the third quarter, WG trailed 6-2, a serious case of adversity. But perhaps drawing on the adversity it had gone through early in the season, the Wildcats recharged — and soon took Syosset out.
John Glesener scored twice in the third period, with Barber sneaking in a goal as well. When Jordan Rogers converted in the final seconds of the quarter, WG had tied it, 6-6, and had seized all the momentum for the fourth quarter ahead.
Just 1:30 into that last period, Barber sneaked to the edge of the crease, dove and flipped a shot past Syosset goalie Evan Cohen, giving WG the lead for good. Barber would lead the team in points with two goals and three assists.
One more flourish remained. With the score 8-7, Fetterly converted with 5:17 to play. Barely a minute later, defender Jack Kennedy sprinted up the field and ripped a high shot past Cohen, a staggering play that all but sealed the championship.
The good news about the boys championship came to the girls team as it was riding on the bus to SUNY-Cortland, and it fired them up.
Just a day earlier, WG had crushed Lancaster 17-2 in its state semifinal, setting up its final against Farmingdale, a rematch of the 2007 championship game won by the Wildcats 8-4.
This time around, it would prove to be much closer. Farmingdale’s Candice Rossi won the opening draw, surged down the field and scored just 11 seconds into the game.
This set the tone for the rest of the first half, in that Rossi dominated the draws. No matter which player head coach Bob Elmer sent to the center circle (he tried five of them by game’s end), Rossi kept scooping the ball out of the air and setting up the Dalers’ attack.
Despite all this, the Wildcats kept pace by forcing turnovers and putting its lethal attack to work. Three different times, WG faced two-goal deficits in the first half, but each time it rallied, as Lauren Welch and Ariel Kramer each scored three times to carry the offense along.
It went to halftime tied, 8-8. When Kramer notched her fourth goal and Amanda Cizenski scored for the second time to put the Wildcats in front, 10-8, it looked like that, once again, the overpowering force of WG’s talent would leave an opponent behind.
But after a Farmingdale time-out, the challengers stormed back. Jamie Leone, Janine Hillier and Kelly McPartland combined for four unanswered goals in a span of four minutes, pushing the Dalers back ahead, 12-10, and forcing Elmer to use his last time-out.
That proved to be a good move. From that point forward, WG did not allow a goal as defenders Nicole Perkins, Steph Datellas, Lauren Corso and Laura Lucchesi brought increased pressure on the Farmingdale attackers, forcing lots of key turnovers. Also, goalie Kelly Fucillo stood up tall, finishing with nine saves.
Maria DiFato’s goal made it 12-11 with 11:56 to play. Following a long, tense sequence where neither side would break, Welch returned to notch her fourth goal with 6:24 left to tie it again, 12-12, the seventh different tie in this well-played game.
WG soon got the ball back, and midfielder Bre Hudgins drew a free-position shot. Instead of shooting, Hudgins gave it to Kramer, who ripped it past Farmingdale goalie Lauren Maksym with 3:18 to play.
Now up by a goal, the Wildcats finally won a draw, then tried to run out the clock with its vaunted possession game. They did use up most of the time, but Farmingdale forced a turnover in the far corner with 15 seconds left.
Rossi had one more chance to hurt WG. She sprinted up the field, drew a foul with six seconds left, then ran toward the net before passing to Melanie Raso. And Raso got off a shot — but it bounced high off the turf and wide just as the clock hit zero.
The ecstatic Wildcats celebrated with each other on the field, accepted their medals and trophies (Kramer took home tournament MVP honors), posed for pictures, then happily returned home to Camillus, where the entire town was ready to celebrate — twice.