When at full strength, the Cazenovia girls lacrosse team can stick right with the best Class C teams in the area, including long-time nemesis Skaneateles.
That was proven again Wednesday afternoon when the two Laker sides met at the Fenner Street complex, as a key absence in the final minutes played a huge role in Cazenovia's 14-12 defeat.
Continuing what has been a months-long effort to support fellow student Taylor Matt, in need of a bone marrow transplant to fight a recurrence of leukemia, all the players wore purple "Tay-Strong" T-shirts beneath their white home jerseys.
Inspiration could be found on the field, too, for until 2009, when Carthage dethroned them, Skaneateles had domianted the local small-school ranks, and many of its important wins had come at Cazenovia's expense.
The gap between the two Lakers has closed, though, as clearly evidenced by this game, which featured nine different ties and several lead changes.
Trailing 3-1 early, Cazenovia made up that deficit at 4-4, then spent much of the rest of the game in a close dance with Skaneateles as neither side could put together any sustained run. Some breaks helped, too, as twice Cazenovia scored when passes inadvertently deflected into the Skaneateles net.
All that reversed, though, when, with 11 minutes to play and the game tied again at 10-10, Katie Kleine, arguably Cazenovia's best all-around player, got hit in the face with a shot. Though she walked to the sidelines, she did not return.
Without Kleine to defend her, Skaneateles star Maddy Morrissey, bottled up much of the game, started to take charge. After Shelby McNeilly broke an 11-11 tie with 6:47 left, Morrissey struck for her second and third goals less than two minutes apart, making it 14-11, and Cazenovia would not catch up.
In defeat, Gabby Jaquith had four goals and three assists. Kendra Volz found the net three times, while Colleen Dougherty and Kaitlyn Button had two goals apiece. Emmajean Spear scored, too, as Kleine got two assists before departing. Morrissey, McNeilly, Diane Vitkus (four goals each) and Aly Davis (five assists) led the Skaneateles effort.