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.