Jun 10, 2011 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
This time, it was supposed to be different for the West Genesee girls lacrosse team as it returned to the state Class A final four at SUNY-Cortland for the fifth year in a row.
Each of the previous two seasons, the Wildcats were expected to take home the big prize, only to take an agonizing one-goal defeat in the semifinal round – first to Farmingdale in 2009, then to Lakeland-Panas in overtime in 2010.
Undefeated in 2011, and bent on reclaiming the crown it won in 2007 and ’08, WG tried again on Friday in the state semifinals. And it lost again, as Section V champion Pittsford, from the Rochester suburbs, kept itself unbeaten (21-0) by topping the Wildcats 9-7 to advance to its first-ever state title game.
Even though it was WG with all the experience at the state final four, it was the Panthers that demonstrated all the late-game poise, answering every time the Wildcats threatened and calmly running out the clock in the late going.
Not once did WG lead, a complete reversal from most games this season where it never trailed. Right from the start, the Panthers announced its intentions by holding the ball for the first two minutes, determined to keep the Wildcats from the high-speed, high-pressure style it prefers.
They exchanged goals early, Nicole Bello tying it up 1-1, but that was the only tie of the first half. Carried by Tori Wehner and Devin Collins, who had all of Pittsford’s goals, the Panthers steadily built a 5-3 advantage by the break. Katey Hart’s pair of goals would keep things close.
When Hart notched her third goal 27 seconds into the second half and cut it to 5-4, WG appeared ready to take over, but Pittsford regained possession and, again, held the ball for a while before Whener converted at the 4:29 mark.
Now it was the Wildcats’ turn to make a charge. Hart’s fourth goal again sliced the margin to one, and when Erica Geremia put a shot past Panthers goalie Jaclyn Fraum with 15 minutes left and tied it, 6-6, WG’s fans again expected a takeover.
Again, though, Pittsford surged back in front, Ali Curwin answering Geremia less than two minutes later. The Panthers continued its patient, ball-control approach, and increased the margin to 8-6 when Collins found the net with 10:55 left, forcing Wildcat coach Bob Elmer to use a time-out.
One more time, WG would attempt to catch up. Hart, all but carrying the Wildcats’ attack, converted her fifth goal with 9:15 left to make it 8-7, but that would be her team’s last goal of the season.
Pittsford regained possession, restored its two-goal margin on freshman Abby Cullinan’s goal with 6:31 to play, and won the ensuing draw. This allowed the Panthers to run off most of the remaining clock, though the Wildcats got one more scoring chance before Fraum made a point-blank save – and once again, WG saw its season end two games too early.
One saving grace of this sad ending to a 19-1 campaign is that a lot of top Wildcat players, including Geremia, Emily Tripodi and Kara Datellas, return for 2012, and will be hungry again to get to the last weekend of the season and, this time, finish things off.