Nov 29, 2010 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
It was a celebration five years – or more – in the making.
When Jillian Vogl’s shot found the net in overtime on Nov. 20 at Cicero-North Syracuse’s Bragman Stadium, the Cazenovia field hockey team had achieved the first state championship by any Laker team in the school’s history.
Yet this was far from an overnight success story. Four straight times, the Lakers had gone into the state tournament, only to get eliminated long before the championship round.
Breaking that spell required the same traits that all championship teams carry – a fair amount of talent, for sure, but also a larger amount of leadership and, whenever it was needed, an ability to make the big plays.
Not too long ago, just winning a Section III title was a big accomplishment. In both 2004 and 2005, head coach Lorraine Scheftic’s Lakers made it to the finals, only to get beat, and followers wondered if the breakthrough would ever take place.
Then came 2006, when the Lakers trailed Holland Patent in the closing seconds of regulation in the Class B finals on the same Bragman Stadium turf where greater glory would be achieved four years later.
But the Lakers got a goal to force overtime against the Golden Knights, then won in that extra period 3-2 to finally claim the sectional banner. Great as that was, though, a different kind of frustration would soon set in.
Starting in ’06, and continuing through the next three years, the pattern would repeat itself. Each time, Cazenovia would blaze to a Section III title (it moved from Class B to C in 2007) – and each time, it would lose in the regional playoffs. That included a 7-0 defeat to Marathon in ’08 and a 4-0 loss to those same Olympians in ’09.
This was the background for Cazenovia going into 2010, who figured that if a regional title, or even a state title, was ever going to happen, now was the time.
Up front, the Lakers had one of the most potent offenses Central New York had ever seen. At its heart was Tori Widrick, the senior going to Ball State, along with Vogl, a junior, and two more seniors, Abby Eschen and Belle Hoagland, each of whom could take over a game at any time.
In support was a midfield that included EmmaJean Speer and Kara Stalder, but just as important was the experience Cazenovia possessed in the back. Goalie Emily Mastropaolo was a steady presence, and in front of her Raeanne Clabeaux, Ellen Burr, SarahRose Gabor and Molly Hudson could turn any kind of attack away with their sticks.
Everything went smoothly in the regular season. Despite non-league defeats to Rome Free Academy and Camden, the Lakers went 14-2, increasing its win streak over Onondaga High School League foes to 59 games. It would also score 104 goals for the season, the most by any Section III team in a single season.
The sectional playoffs passed without incident, as the Lakers handled Canastota, dominated the Class C final with Holland Patent despite a 1-0 winning margin (Hoagland’s late penalty stroke decided it), and destroyed New York Mills 7-0 in the C/D state qualifier at CNS on Nov. 6, a turf to which it would return a couple of weeks later.
Now came that all-important regional, the roadblock in years past. Only this time, it was Whitney Point, not Marathon, serving as the opposition – and in a personal tour de force Nov. 9 at Greene High School, Eschen served up a three-goal hat trick in a 3-1 Laker victory.
As it turned out, the regional final against Greenwich Nov. 13 at Shenendehowa (near Albany) proved more harrowing. Cazenovia actually trailed, 1-0, at halftime, but pulled even late in the second half with Widrick’s goal, then won it 2-1 as Hoagland, just as he had done in the sectional final against HP, won it with a late penalty stroke.
On the familiar CNS turf for the state final four the Lakers made short work of its semifinal against Briarcliff Manor, a 4-0 rout that left Cazenovia just one victory short of the ultimate prize.
Pierson Bridgehampton stood in the way, and for 60 tense minutes of regulation it remained 0-0, Cazenovia wondering if would ever convert – especially after Hoagland saw a penalty stroke stopped early in the second half.
Then came the overtime, with its seven-on-seven format designed to open up the field and allow someone a good chance to win it. It worked for the Lakers in 2006 on this same field – and when Vogl converted and got mobbed by her newly-minted state championship teammates, it worked here, too.
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