By lasting as long as it did in the 2008 campaign, the Vernon-Verona-Sherrill field hockey team got the rare opportunity to get a close-up view of the best competition the state had to offer.
Well, maybe it got too close of a look.
The Red Devils ran straight into the waiting clutches of a field hockey dynasty last Friday night at Chittenango High School, taking a 4-0 defeat to Garden City in the state Class B semifinal round.
No one could ever doubt the effort and heart VVS put out -- not after it had survived overtime battles with Camden (in the Section III finals, also at Chittenango) and Maine-Endwell (in the regional finals) to reach this point.
Garden City, though, was an entirely different matter. The Trojans had been to state title games each of the last three years, winning in 2005 and 2006, but dropping the '07 title game to Rye in overtime.
The memory of that defeat drove Garden City to a 19-0 mark as it came to Chittenango, waiting to see if VVS would thwart its chance at redemption.
A large and boisterous contingent of VVS parents, students and other fans made the short trek up Route 5 to see this game, some of them even tailgating in the parking lot beforehand in mild, windy conditions.
Once the game started, though, it was clear who was in charge. Garden City, with a roster twice the size of the Red Devils and all the experience to boot, attacked early, forcing defenders Maria Mancebo, Vicki Moats and Tracie Schiebel to go to work in a hurry.
Just 6:09 into the game, off a penalty corner, the Trojans' Eleni Andromidas crushed a slap shot past Teresa Moats, as Mariah Pewarski got the assist.
Already up 1-0, Garden City took firm command thanks to Caroline McTiernan, who landed back-to-back goals less than five minutes apart late in the half. VVS got its best chance after that third goal, only to see Trojans netminder Eliazbeth Gurskis kick the ball away.
Andromidas returned to score in the second half, but it wasn't needed. Garden City had earned a place in the state championship game against Rondout Valley, who knocked out Williamsville South 3-0 in the other semifinal.
From this 16-4-1 championship squad, VVS will see Moats, Mancebo (the Sportsmanship Award winner), Erica Strife and Kathy Junglen graduate. But the return of players like Moats, Schiebel, Ashley Palmer, Dominique Coy, Courtney Smith, Mary Schilling and Liz Bush should make the Red Devils a threat to win it all again next fall.