Whatever else must be said about the Cicero-North Syracuse boys soccer team, it can certainly shut down an opponent when the moment requires it.
That talent would be needed if the Northstars wanted to win its second Section III Class AA championship in three years.
CNS earned the right to meet defending champion Baldwinsville for the title in last Thursday night's AA semifinal at West Genesee High School in Camillus, where great defense was the primary reason the Northstars beat no. 3 seed Fayetteville-Manlius 1-0.
When they had met 16 days earlier at Swan Pond, CNS had prevailed 2-1 in a back-and-forth battle with all kinds of chances to score on both ends.
On a cold Thursday night in Camillus, the rematch brought a different vibe. Through the game's first 20 minutes, neither side developed a serious attack, as if they both needed to get used to the Field Turf surface.
Gradually, though, the Northstars picked up pressure -- and in the 30th minute, that pressure would pay off.
A foul 25 yards from the box gave CNS a free kick. Shane Hachey took it, and it got saved. But an F-M defender sent it out to the middle, where Kenny Cooper picked it off, then launched a shot past Hornets goalkeeper Alex Cameron-Carter.
To his credit, Cameron-Carter made two spetacular, athletic stops late in the first half to keep the margin at one, forcing the Northstars' defense to play well in the second half.
As if on cue, CNS closed the wall around goalie Mark Falinski, who made six saves. Back-line players like Hachey, Alex Neumeister, Michael Kuss and Rick Goettel stayed poised and calm, kicking the ball away any time F-M tried to get close.
That kind of resistance will be required in the finals against Baldwinsville, who beat CBA 3-0 in the other semifinal and knocked off CNS in their regular-season meeting Oct. 7 at Pelcher-Arcaro Stadium.