An entire year of practice, preparation and persistence came down to a few frantic days of action as the Cazenovia girls lacrosse team pursued the Section III Class C championship.
Yet for the third consecutive year, the Lakers saw its title dream end in the semifinals, despite nearly pulling off one of the biggest comebacks in the history of the sectional playoffs.
Cazenovia's 16-14 loss to top seed Carthage in the Class C semifinals Saturday at West Genesee High School really served as two games in one -- the first part where the Lakers got run over by a first-rate Carthage attack, then the second part where it almost pulled off a miracle.
Other than Katie Kleine scoring 30 seconds into the game, little went right for the Lakers in the early going, especially on the defensive side.
Mixing a terrific passing game with speed and an innate ability to finish off plays, Carthage scored five goals in less than three minutes to take charge, and didn't let up until it had a 9-2 lead less than 11 minutes into the game.
Allison Loretz replaced Brodie Shepard in goal, and Kara Cannizzaro hit a pair of goals to get the Lakers moving. But Kaylah Kempney (who had four goals and two assists in the first half alone) scored just as the halftime horn sounded, making it 11-4.
With less than 18 minutes left, the margin had grown to 15-6, Carthage hardly resembling the team Cazenovia had beaten 18-15 a month ago at the Fenner Street complex.
Yet the Lakers refused to quit, even when Cannizzaro got whistled for a yellow card midway through the half. Goals by Gabby Jaquith and Kaitlyn Button helped cut the margin to 15-9, but the real fun was just beginning.
With 7:58 left, and her team still down by six, Cannizzaro scored, launching a run where Jaquith and Kendra Volz (who had three goals on the day) both converted in the next 1:10, making it 15-12, with a lot of time to make up the rest of the deficit.