Before it could state its case as a Section III Class C championship contender, the Cazenovia girls lacrosse had to beat someone big, somewhere, to prove that it could do later on when it counted more.
That moment finally arrived last Thursday at Alibrandi Stadium, where the state Class C no. 9-ranked Lakers endured a wild, back-and-forth battle with no. 7-ranked Christian Brothers Academy and rode Kara Cannizzaro's overtime heroics to a 19-18 victory over the Brothers.
Each side had a lot to prove -- Cazenovia because it needed a signature win, CBA because it had just gone through losses to fellow contenders Skaneateles and Westhill and could ill afford another setback.
To that end, the two sides began an exhilarating contest where neither team would be up by more than three goals, and a thrust from one side would be quickly answered.
So it went, through the entire first half. The Lakers faced deficits of 3-1, 6-4, and 7-5, but came back every time. Chelsea McKillop's goal just seven seconds before halftime allowed the Lakers to take an 8-8 tie to the break.
And Cazenovia continued to surge early in the second half, as McKillop, Sarah Wright and Gabby Jaquith accounted for the goals that put the Lakers ahead 12-9.
Slowly, CBA answered back, and the pace quickened even more, to the point that whichever team won the draw seemed certain to score seconds later.
The Lakers got caught at 14-14, then fell behind on M.E. Lapham's goal with 7:46 left in regulation. They exchanged goals and Cazenovia still found itself down, 16-15, as time began to wind down.
Rejected on numerous attacks at the net, the Lakers kept pushing. Finally, Wright fired home the game-tying goal with 1:04 to play, and when freshman goalie Brodie Shepard made two clutch stops in the final seconds, the game went into a pair of three-minute overtime periods.