Field hockey Lakers repeat as Class C champs

Make that four consecutive Section III championships for the Cazenovia field hockey team, the last two of the Class C variety.

And it wasn't easy for the Lakers to attain that title, either, as it had to scrape and claw for 60 minutes to work past Mount Markham 1-0 in last Wednesday night's Class C final at Rome Free Academy Stadium.

Even though it had lost five times this season, Mount Markham carried plenty of confidence into the final, and wasn't afraid of Cazenovia, who was playing in a sectional final for the sixth year in a row.

Still, the Lakers dominated the flow of play in the first half. Midfielders Belle Hoagland, Sarah Race, Ellen Burr and EmmaJean Speer found space to work and didn't let the Mustangs' players get much possession time.

Despite this work, it was still 0-0 going into the second half, as a series of scoring chances from the likes of Tori Widrick and Abby Eschen got kicked away by Mount Markham goalie Vanessa Winchester, who finished with seven saves.

The Lakers stayed patient -- and it finally paid off when, in the second half, Jillian Vogl got open and, taking a pass from Hoagland, slid a shot past Winchester.

To protect that one-goal margin, the Lakers needed its defense to step up as the Mustangs mounted an all-out attack. Molly Hudson, Kara Stalder, Siobhan Bigsby and Raeanne Clabeaux offered the primary protection, and Emily Mastropaolo earned most of her four saves in that homestretch.

With the Class C title in hand, the Lakers now turned its attention to Saturday's Class C-D game at Cicero-North Syracuse's Bragman Stadium against Little Falls, who beat Port Byron 3-0 for the Class D title.

A berth in the state tournament was on the line -- and sensing that importance, the Lakers pounced once more, keeping the Mounties off the board in a 2-0 shutout.

With a steady, relentless attack, Cazenovia kept up the pressure against Little Falls, and a single goal in each half proved to be enough.

Widrick and Race came up with those goals, helping the Lakers earn a return trip to Bragman Stadium this Saturday to face Section IV champion Marathon in the Class C regional finals at 4 p.m.

Cazenovia lost to Marathon in last year's regional final, but seeks payback as it looks to advance to next weekend's state final four at Vestal High School near Binghamton.

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