While it has made a lot of progress in the season's opening half, the Cicero-North Syracuse boys lacrosse team still has not climbed to the top heights of Class AA contenders.
However, the Northstars learned, in the course of Tuesday's 13-12 defeat to Corcoran at Bragman Stadium, that it might not be that far away, either.
Corcoran had averaged more than 20 goals per game in its previous four games, all wins. But it played the first half without two key starters, Cree Cathers and Dylan Lyons, and CNS took full advantage.
The tight defense of seniors Chad Izyk and Matt Strzelecki, plus junior Gabe Lavere, added to a fine half from senior goalie Brian Pitonzo, who got most of his 10 saves in the first two periods.
On the offensive end, sophomore Tyler Heldt and junior Zach Waldron combined for five goals, helping CNS break out of an early deadlock and take a 7-4 lead to the half.
Yet when Lyons and Cathers returned for the start of the third quarter, it began to change. Lyons immediately notched a goal and assist and, by the late part of the period, Corcoran had tied it, 9-9, setting up an exciting finish.
A tense exchange saw Corcoran and CNS both take one-goal leads, but quickly hand them off. The Northstars' biggest problem was that it could not pick up Corcoran attackers Ryan Cook and Dylan Smith finding each other for point-blank shots.
Twice in a span of 16 seconds, Cook hit Smith on one-timer shots that beat Pitonzo, and CNS saw a 12-11 lead disappear as Corcoran went up by one. The Northstars still had a chance to tie it, but instead turned it over in the final minute.
Back on April 16, CNS went east and played South Colonie, from the Albany suburbs, and earned an 11-9 victory over the Garnet Raiders.
A 3-0 first quarter allowed the Northstars to lead all the way. Dylan Collins led with three goals and two assists, with Heldt also getting a three-goal hat trick. Rob Spenard scored twice as Waldron, Mike Fiorini and Matt Kennedy also converted.