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Soccer Lakers stage memorable run to state championship

Starting with the Sept. 3 opener against Homer, the Lakers roared to a 5-0 start, its only real scare coming from Westhill Sept. 14, a 4-3 decision where the absence of Lewis, and the fact that Diamond was still getting used to his net duties, provided a thriller.

Then the Lakers stepped up its competition by beating two Class AA powers in the inaugural Finger Lakes Invitational on Sept. 24-25. In overtime, it knocked off Cicero-North Syracuse 2-1 (Farrell got the game-winner), then it beat West Genesee 3-1.

This helped Skaneateles rise to the no. 1 spot in the state Class B rankings, where it would stay the rest of the season - but more magic lay ahead.

The Lakers were 13-0 going into its Oct. 16 match with CBA. Trailing 2-0, with the perfect season about to slip away, Skaneateles got two goals in 20 seconds (from Baldetti and Rice), then won 3-2 when Baldetti converted again with 15:30 left.

That was the last big obstacle in a 16-0 regular season where the Lakers averaged nearly five goals per game while only allowing 22 for the entire two-month campaign. But now the post-season lay ahead.

It was fitting that two all-too-familiar rivals, Marcellus and Westhill, provided the first obstacles in the Section III tournament. However, the Lakers easily cleared both hurdles, dismissing the Mustangs in the quarterfinals and the Warriors in the semifinals by equal 3-0 margins.

The sectional final on Nov. 5, though, looked to be a much larger hurdle. Clinton arrived at the title game in Chittenango with the same 18-0 mark the Lakers possessed, and with a terrific defense as its calling card, many thought the Warriors could shut the Skaneateles machine down.

Yet every Laker remembered the heartache of the final in '09, and they went out and dominated Clinton much more than the 2-0 margin would indicate. That made it 19 in a row, and the state playoffs beckoned.

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