Deep into Tuesday night, the Skaneateles girls lacrosse team still believed it could take down Carthage in the Section III Class C championship game at SUNY-Cortland.
The Lakers believed it despite falling behind 3-0 in the opening minutes. They believed it though a key midfielder exited the stage early. And they kept believing it even as they trailed the Comets by four goals with less than three minutes to play.
Only when Diane Vitkus got checked on her last charge to the net as the final seconds ticked away did the dream fall short as Carthage held on for a 9-8 victory and its second straight overall sectional title - both times coming at the Lakers' expense.
"Nobody thought we would be here," head coach Bridget Marquardt said. "But we gave them all they could handle. We fought to the end."
And that was a far better conclusion than what took place on this same Cortland turf in the sectional final 12 months ago. Carthage won big that time, 19-9, its speed and skill far too much for the overwhelmed Lakers to handle.
Now, having just recorded a splendid effort in its 12-6 romp over top seed CBA in the C-2 championship game, Skaneateles knew that kind of mastery would be needed again if it wanted to conquer the Comets.
So it wasn't fazed when Carthage's Katherine DeRonda scored 10 seconds into the game. After all, CBA's Katie Webster had done the same (converting 11 seconds into the C-2 final), and look how that turned out.
Then again, the Comets, unlike the Brothers, didn't stop there, extending the margin to 3-0 as DeRonda and Emily Sauter scored 29 seconds apart.
Worse yet, a frustrated Carly Davis (who scored four goals against CBA) went to the sidelines with two yellow cards before the game was six minutes old, depriving the Lakers of a key defensive force.