All those years of slowly rising to the top, and all those times where it just fell short of the summit -- is this the year that the Cazenovia girls soccer team finally lays claim to both league and sectional honors?
The Lakers took a gigantic first step toward those lofty goals Wednesday afternoon at the Fenner Street complex, beating long-time power Marcellus 1-0.
As far as changes go, the biggest one in the Lakers' program since 2008, when it went 11-9-1, had little to do with the players on the field.
Lori Kleine, the coach who helped move Cazenovia from pretender to contender, stepped down, and Hans Von Packal took over, in a near-ideal situation.
Just three seniors from 2008 graduated, though it included standouts like Clare Dorsey and Kassie Kleine. A wealth of talent is back, though, including Katie Kleine, Taylor Malmsheimer, Colleen Dougherty, Kristen Romagnoli and Whitney Goris.
Together, these Lakers went after Marcellus, who have ended Cazenovia's season each of the last two years -- in the 2007 finals and 2008 semifinals.
With so much knowledge of each other through six meetings in two seasons, it was fitting that the defenses had full command. For the most part, the game stayed in the midfield, each side probing, but rarely getting a chance to attack.
Cazenovia's defense did such a good job of protection that Jamie Enders, making her varsity debut in goal, had to make just three saves.
The only goal came in the 37th minute, close to halftime. Katie Kleine, the Lakers' leading returning scorer, finally broke free and, off a pass from Dougherty, rammed a shot past Marcellus goalie Megan Tock.
Happy as the Lakers are with this result, there was no time to celebrate, for on Friday it will kick off its annual tournament at Fenner, with the consolation and championship games on Saturday.