Jun 03, 2009 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Exultant cheers from the stands, happy players hugging each other and posing with the Section III Class A championship banner — none of this was new for the West Genesee girls lacrosse team.
What was new was the way it earned that title.
Down by four goals in the second half of last Tuesday’s Class A final against Baldwinsville at SUNY-Cortland, the Wildcats made it all the way back, forced overtime — and forced its way past the Bees in a tense 9-8 classic.
These were not the same WG powerhouse teams that flattened all sectional opposition in 2007 and ’08 on the way to state championships. And that, according to senior Bre Hudgins, gave this title an added meaning.
“It’s a lot more satisfying,” she said. “We had to work harder this time around. After losing 14 seniors last year, no one thought we could come back and win it again. That makes it greater.”
Head coach Bob Elmer agreed, saying many of his past state champions had deeper rosters than this group, but that none had worked so hard to get to the top.
“We are winning with a lot of heart,” he said. “We had more talented teams than this, but these girls refuse to lose.”
That resolve would get the supreme test from Baldwinsville, who had ended WG’s 52-game win streak back on April 9 at Henninger’s Sunnycrest Field, only to see the Wildcats take the rematch May 19 in Camillus, two weeks prior to the final.
They came in ranked no. 1 and 2 in the country, according to laxpower.com. But the Bees were without senior Erika Bulken, who had torn her ACL in that second game against the Wildcats. Bulken’s absence, on the offensive end and in the draw circle (where she won 75 percent of draws), would prove to be quite important in the end.
With so much familiarity, it wasn’t a surprise that the Wildcats and Bees went nearly 12 minutes without scoring at one point in the first half. They played on even terms, with WG inching in front 4-3 on Maria DiFato’s second goal 2:11 before halftime.
Early in the second half, though, B’ville started to dominate. The trio of Quincey Spagnoletti, Kara Moschetti and Jen Fabian accounted for four straight goals, and when Mackenzie Kjerstad converted with 16:41 left, WG trailed 8-4.
The crown looked to be slipping away. Hudgins said her team was nervous and not in top form, and added that she knew she had to step up.
Elmer knew this, too, and began routing the Wildcats’ attack through Hudgins. Sure enough, her goal with 15:41 left made it 8-5, and began the comeback.
Within a span of four minutes, Hudgins and Katey Hart both had converted to make it 8-7, and when the Bees committed a big turnover in its own end, Morgan Corso flew in and scored the tying goal with 5:13 left in regulation.
Through all this, the Wildcats’ defense excelled. Laura Luchessi, Lindsay Vona, Chelsea Kuss and Jessica Shanley swarmed on the Bees, forcing a series of turnovers and rushed shots, and Nicole Greco made key stops. In all, WG blanked B’ville in the game’s final 22:41.
Still, B’ville had a point-blank chance on a free position to win it at the end of regulation. Spagnoletti chose to pass to Moschetti — and it got stopped as time ran out.
Hudgins won the draw in the first of the two three-minute OT periods. After seeing one of her shots stopped, Hudgins got it back — and flung the ball past B’ville goalie Casey Chiesa 1:45 into that OT period, her fourth goal of the day.
That would hold up, as WG won both of the ensuing draws (the Bees never could find someone as good as Bulken for the circle), Greco stopped Moschetti point-blank in the second OT, and B’ville could not get a shot off in the waning seconds.
Without much time to celebrate, the Wildcats head straight into the regional round, beginning Thursday against Section IV champion Ithaca — at Ithaca High School.