Tested in so many ways during an erratic 2008 regular season, the Cazenovia girls soccer team hoped all the hard lessons learned along the way translated into a successful venture in the Section III Class B playoffs.
And so far, it's been nothing but success, with the Lakers leaning on a ferocious defense that is playing its best soccer at just the right time, recording back-to-back post-season shutouts.
Pushed to the no. 10 seed by its 9-8-1 mark, the Lakers had to make a long road trip east to face no. 7 seed Herkimer in last Tuesday night's opening round.
Braving the chilly, wet conditions, Cazenovia controlled most of the game's flow and got the minimal offense it needed to beat the Magicians 1-0.
The Lakers took three times as many shots as Herkimer, carefully probing against the Magicians' defense while fending off rain, cold winds and temperatures in the 40s.
One time, the Lakers broke through, as Katie Kleine pushed a shot past Herkimer goalkeeper Abbie Sutliff. Colleen Dougherty got credit for the assist.
Sutliff did a superb job keeping her team in the game, earning 14 saves. But the Lakers' defense held the Magicians to just five shots, all stopped by Clare Dorsey.
Now, in a fate eerily similar to the boys team of a year ago, the Lakers had to visit no. 2 seed Clinton in the Class B quarterfinal round.
And just like those boys, these girls would prevail, too, getting on the board early, then hanging on to knock out the Warriors 1-0.
Drawing a corner kick in the first half, Cazenovia's Rachel Burbidge sent the ball to the middle -- and Kleine thrust the shot past Clinton goalie Alicia Donovan into the net.
For the rest of the game, the Lakers would spend a majority of the time on the defensive, clinging to that one-goal margin.
Anchored by Whitney Goris, the Lakers' back line constantly turned away Clinton's charges. And when the shots did get on the net, Dorsey was ready, as she enjoyed one of the best games of her varsity career, earning 12 saves.
So now the Lakers stood two victories away from its first sectional title since 1989 (Class C), but just one win from its third consecutive trip to the title game. And it will meet a familiar OHSL Liberty division foe in the semifinals early next week, whether it's Marcellus or Skaneateles.