By the time it got done last week, the Fayetteville-Manlius girls soccer team was going to have a clear idea just where it stood in the Section III Class AA hierarchy.
Going head-to-head with defending AA champion Cicero-North Syracuse on Friday night, the Hornets found itself to be right in the mix with the royalty, coming from behind to record a big 2-1 victory over the Northstars.
CNS not only were the reigning champs, it brought back much of the talent from 2007, a subtle reminder to the Hornets that reaching this summit would mean going through familiar territory not previously conquered.
Sure enough, the Northstars jumped out in front 1-0 in the first half when Rachel Bowles nabbed an unassisted goal.
But that would be the only time F-M would get beat. Rachel D'Hollander picked up seven saves as veteran defenders like Mary Beth Anagnost and Julia Reagan joined newcomer Ali Pliszka in offering strong protection.
This paid off when, in the second half, the Hornets tied it on Jordan Monteleone's goal. Then, with 12 minutes to go, Brenna Kincaid lined up a long shot from 35 yards out and drilled it past CNS goalie Chelsea Dunay into the net.
That proved to be the game-winner, as Bri Dolan and Erika Davin both got credit for assists on those second-half tallies.
As a warm-up two nights earlier, the Hornets lit into West Genesee at Swan Pond, relying on a deep, varied attack and terrific defense to rip the Wildcats 4-0.
Patient in the first half, F-M went up 1-0 on Morgan Same's goal. All the while, it put Anagnost on WG's top player, Chelsea Kuss, making sure she never got free to hurt the Hornets' defenders.
Gradually, the Hornets pulled clear in the second half. Alexa Cappozi scored again, while Sara Rothschild and Danielle Kennedy also took turns converting. Monteleone earned two assists, with Same and Mary Hartzheim also getting assists.
Now at 4-0 following the CNS win, and full of confidence, the Hornets pay a Monday visit to Liverpool (who has a new head coach, Brian MacGrane) and host Central Square Tuesday before a Saturday visit to Utica Proctor.