Two straight campaigns for the West Genesee girls lacrosse team have ended in the same way - with painful overtime defeats in the state Class A semifinals, two wins short of the state championship the Wildcats have claimed five different times.
Now the 2011 campaign has started, and nothing less than the top prize will satisfy head coach Bob Elmer's charges. Though stars like Bre Hudgins (now starring at Brown University) are gone, the return of a strong core of top-rated players make that dream quite realistic.
For Tuesday night's season opener, WG hosted long-time rival Baldwinsville, and jumped out to a large lead before holding off the Bees' late-game push to preserve a 17-11 victory.
As a fierce, cold wind blew across Camillus and snow flew from time to time, the Wildcats relied on two standout juniors, Emily Tripodi and Kara Datellas, to get the first four goals of the night. Katey Hart and Shannon Hawley converted, too, to make it 6-1 less than 10 minutes into the game, forcing the Bees to call time-out.
Continuing to look sharp on the offensive end, WG added to the margin as Hart and Tripodi scored 24 seconds apart late in the half to make it 12-4. Then Erica Geremia, who already had two assists (and would add another), contributed two goals early in the second half and the Wildcats had a 14-4 edge, leading to a running clock.
But a trio of yellow cards caused the Wildcats to play for six minutes with one player down - and that wore on the hosts. Meanwhile, B'ville won a series of draws and, mostly through a series of free-position goals, ate away at the margin until, with 5:52 to play, Ashley Gentile's goal made it 15-11.
Through it all, the Wildcats stayed poised - and got nice work from goalie Rachel Watkins, who made seven saves after Libby Byrne got four saves in the first half. Datellas notched her fourth goal with exactly three minutes left, and Nicole Bello scored in the final minute to seal matters.
Vicki Graveline and Nicole Desko also converted as Tripodi matched Datellas by scoring four times and adding two assists. WG will visit Liverpool on Thursday, then return home Saturday to face West Morris Mendham (N.J.), with the start time moved back from 11 a.m. to 3:30.