Four previous times, the Marcellus girls soccer team has made it all the way to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class B championship game, winning it twice, in 2003 and 2004.
Now the Mustangs sit just one victory from a return to the state final four, the result of Tuesday night's 2-0 shutout of Section II champion Chatham in the first round of the Class B regional playoffs at West Genesee High School.
Chatham was an unlikely entry, having upset long-time power Maple Hill in its sectional finals. But this didn't faze Marcellus, who proved bigger, faster and, ultimately, more productive on the same Camillus turf where it beat Skaneateles in the Section III Class B semifinals a week earlier.
Steadily, the Mustangs applied pressure from the opening kickoff, missing on the early chances, but converting in the 16th minute. Jessie Nye picked off a clearing attempt from Chatham defender Victoria Bemiss and ran down the right side of the field. Nye passed it to the middle - where Kathryn Busa beat Panthers goalie Brittany Lossow.
With that 1-0 lead, Marcellus patiently worked through the game's middle stages, anchored again by its defense. Seniors Annie Dailey, Emily Pawliewicz and Jessie Manahan broke up any attempt by Chatham to work into the Mustangs' end, and goalie Sophie Jackson only had to make one save.
Despite this, the Panthers put up a brave effort and were still within range until the final stages. Earning another corner kick with 7:13 to play, the Mustangs saw Becca Nolan feed it to the middle and Lizzy Dean put a nifty low shot into the net, doubling the margin and ending the suspense.
On Saturday, Marcellus will go on the road to face the Section VII/X survivor (Peru or Canton), and a win there will mean a return to the Cortland/Homer area and a chance at a third state championship.