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Wildcats shocked by Ithaca in regionals

Once it had lay claim to an eighth straight Section III Class A title, West Genesee's boys lacrosse team knew the routine for the week ahead by heart.

Blaze through the regional round Tuesday against an overmatched Section IV opponent. Then get tested in the state semifinals on Thursday, only to emerge triumphant. Then get the traditional Mohawk haircuts on Friday and finally, on Saturday, pursue that 16th straight championship.

This had been done so many times, by so many different Wildcat teams in the last three decades, that anything short of that full agenda would be considered a disappointment.

Based on all this, what took place last Tuesday night at Cicero-North Syracuse's Bragman Stadium -- namely, a 6-2 defeat to Ithaca in the Class A regional final -- had to go down as one of the biggest jolts the program has ever suffered.

In 26 previous trips to the regional round, WG had gone a perfect 26-0. In fact, it had reached every state final since 2002 -- seven in a row -- winning that title game five times.

Thus, even with the drama associated with rallying past Fayetteville-Manlius 11-9 in the sectional final on June 5, it was generally assumed that the Wildcats would advance deep into the state playoffs because that's what it always seemed to do.

The danger, though, was that the Wildcats, who owned an 18-game win streak, may have thought this way and turned complacent. If so, that would prove to be a costly mistake.

Ithaca, the Section IV champions, had not won any state playoff game since 1978, despite a host of chances -- and many times, WG had knocked them out without much trouble. Hungry, and longing to change three decades of futility, the Little Red went to work.

Maybe the worst possible thing for the Wildcats was seizing a 2-0 lead in the first quarter. Jim Marks put WG on the board, and Ike Hopper followed with a bounce shot into the net at the 10-minute mark.

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