Not too long ago, the West Genesee boys lacrosse team would treat the regional portion of the state Class A playoffs as a glorified warm-up for the bigger challenges that lay ahead in the last two rounds on its way to a record 15 state championships.
All that changed in 2009, when the Wildcats lost to Ithaca, the first time it was ever beaten in the regional round. Now, the hurdle of the regional round has turned into a proverbial brick wall of resistance, and the Little Red is entirely responsible.
For the third year in a row, Ithaca stopped WG in the Class A regional final, overcoming the Wildcats' fast start to take over in the middle stages and prevail by a score of 15-10 last Wednesday afternoon.
Some of it could be attributed to the fact that it was a pure road game. Originally, the regional was slated for Corning, but the death of that school's athletic director, Tim Decker, forced a last-minute venue shift to Ithaca's turf.
At first, this didn't appear to bother the Wildcats too much. Other than giving up Riley Lasda's goal off the opening face-off seven seconds into the game, WG controlled the first quarter, winning face-offs and, with a patient attack, scoring three times to grab a 3-1 lead.
Matt Schattner's goal 30 seconds into the second period made it 4-1. Yet after Ithaca called a time-out, it started to fight back and, led by Lasda and Jamie Henderson (two goals each), had pulled into a 5-5 tie as they reached halftime.
Early in the third quarter, both sided scored twice, R.J. Tinklepaugh and Connor Khammar converting on the Wildcats' side to make it 7-7. But then Ithaca made its decisive move, ending the period on a 5-0 run as five different Little Red players found the net in that period.