One thing was quite apparent Wednesday night at West Genesee High School -- to reach the Section III Class AA boys soccer final, one had to be patient and fight the biggest nerves of the entire season.
Both semifinal games went to penalty-kick shoot-outs -- and Fayetteville-Manlius survived its test by outlasting Utica Proctor, 3-2, in that shoot-out to avenge its only defeat of the season.
Hours later, the Hornets saw Baldwinsville knock off unbeaten top seed Cicero-North Syracuse in another shoot-out, setting up a return to that same turf in Camillus Tuesday night for a championship match between F-M and the two-time defending champion Bees.
Already, the no. 3 seed Hornets had plenty of motivation going into the semifinals. Proctor, the no. 2 seed, had given F-M its lone defeat of the season 2-1 on Oct. 14 in Utica. Exactly three weeks later, the rematch would carry much higher stakes.
Attacking from the start, the Hornets spent the game's first 20 minutes running deep into the Raiders' end, taking a series of shots. Somehow, Proctor goalie Tarik Mekic turned them all away and kept the game scoreless.
The pressure eased up late in the half, and despite all the chances, F-M found itself still in a 0-0 deadlock going into the break, which didn't last long once the second half started.
Just 1:41 into the half, Mike Kutzer turned the ball over -- and Proctor's Armin Budjno seized possession, charged to the F-M net, and fired a low shot past goalie Ken Chapman into the right side of the net.
Unfazed by this, the Hornets resumed its attack and, four minutes after Budjno scored, Kutzer got atonement, seizing upon a Proctor turnover and beating Mekic for the tying goal.
And it would stay 1-1 through the rest of regulation and two tense 15-minute overtime periods. Again, the Hornets had chances to win, and again Mekic turned them away, building his total to 20 saves.
This had to give F-M some pause going into the decisive shoot-out, five penalty kicks per side. Sure enough, the Hornets missed two attempts -- but so did Proctor, and conversions by Kutzer, Duncan Palmer and Brian Ward proved enough to send F-M ahead.