Cicero Cazenovia field hockey goalie Lauren Devine had a lot on her mind as the penalty stroke from Bronxville's Brooke Bonfiglio flew toward her in the first half of Saturday's Class C state semifinal.
"I just watched the ball and didn't let the nerves get to me," she said. "I didn't want to let my team down."
Devine certainly didn't let anyone on her side down. She stopped Bonfiglio's shot and anything else that went her way as the Lakers, mostly carried by its unheralded defense, edged the Broncos 1-0 at Cicero-North Syracuse's Bragman Stadium.
Emmajean Spear's goal late in regulation made the difference on the board, but the narrative mostly centered around Cazenovia's back line and the hard work it had to do in order to keep Bronxville off the board.
This was something Lakers head coach Lorraine Scheftic had anticipated. She said that, in recent weeks, most of the practice time was spent working on defense, since the regular season, with so many one-sided wins, didn't require much emphasis on the other side of the ball.
All of that work paid off in this single contest. Bronxville, the Section I champions, spent a majority of the game in Cazenovia's end, deftly passing the ball around and controlling the midfield.
This meant that defenders Sarah Rose Gabor, Maggie Carpenter, Jessy Silfer and Maureen Milmoe took turns breaking up rushes, with help from midfielders like Speer, Caroline Marshall and Nicole Chiarello.
"They stuck with it and communicated really well," said Devine.
Yet with all that, Cazenovia appeared ready to fall behind when Gabor fell on the ball during a Bronxville penalty corner late in the first half, setting up that penalty stroke. When Devine stuffed Bonfiglio's shot, it fired up the rest of the Lakers' roster for good.
Gradually, the Lakers' offensive pressure built in the second half, even with top scorer Jillian Vogl fairly contained. Speer had the best chance early in the half, only to see Broncos goalie Katie Knox make a spectacular kick save.