Jun 09, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
At last, West Genesee’s girls lacrosse team has the sixth state championship it waited four long years to attain.
A tense, low-scoring state Class A final against Penfield Saturday at SUNY-Cortland broke open when seniors Emily Tripodi, Erica Geremia and Shannon Hawley combined for four goals late in the second half, leading the Wildcats past the Patriots 9-5.
Tripodi said her group of 16 seniors was driven by a desire to add to the program’s winning legacy.
“None of us wanted to leave our West Genesee careers without a state title,” she said.
Head coach Bob Elmer, who had won his first five trips to the state final four before the semifinal defeats of the last three years, said this one was different.
“To see this group finally achieve their goal feels good,” he said. “It’s definitely sweet.”
Having finally climbed over the hurdle of the state semifinals (a tough 10-9 win over Bay Shore) that tripped them up the previous three years, WG now dealt with a Penfield side that needed overtime to get past Shaker 5-4 in the other semifinal and had never played in a state title game before.
The Wildcats needed just 1:09 to grab the lead in a trademark manner, as Madison Huegel forced a Penfield turnover and a series of fine passes set up Triopdi in her favorite spot in back of the net, feeding Geremia up front for the point-blank goal.
A minute later, Geremia fed Kara Datellas for another tally to make it 2-0, and Geremia converted again at the 7:10 mark, this time off a pass from Datellas, and Penfield, down 3-0 quickly, had to use a time-out.
That cooled off WG for a while, and Penfield got on the board with Jill Vacanti’s goal at the 11:54 mark. But Tripodi answered it less than two minutes later, making it 4-1, and the Wildcats tried to maintain that control for the rest of the half.
Again, WG’s defense swarmed over an opponent. The senior trio of Huegel, Dana Anderson and Shelby Milne, playing for the last time together, joined sophomore Marissa Hudgins as they harassed the Patriots into all sorts of rushed passes and turnovers.
Despite all this, Penfield hung in there, because its own defense started to clamp down and make it more difficult for WG to operate, which slowed the tempo down. Sheila Nesselbush cut it to 4-2 late in the half, and that’s where it stood at the break.
Remembering that Penfield had erased a 3-0 deficit the day before in the semifinal with Shaker, the Wildcats continued its strong defense early in the second half, making a stop. Then, at the 3:30 mark, Datellas found Shannon Hawley, whose bounce shot found the net and extended the lead to 5-2.
But Nesselbush brought Penfield closer, hitting on back-to-back goals in a span of 1:03 that slashed the margin to 5-4 and caused the Wildcats to use a time-out. Right after that, Nesselbush had a great chance to tie it on a free-position shot, but hit the left post.
Vacanti didn’t miss, though, when her shot found the left side of the net with 11:49 left. Penfield had pulled even, 5-5, and that elusive sixth state championship was now very much in question.
At that point, said Geremia, “we told ourselves that we had to finish it now”, to not let it get as close as the previous two playoff games, both of them one-goal decisions.
Tripodi led the decisive charge. From the right side, the senior slipped an odd-angle shot past a stunned Pascuzzi with 9:58 to play, pushing WG back in front 6-5.
“I just went up and face-dodged”, said Tripodi. “She (Pascuzzi) was off the pipe, so I tried to sneak it in.”
It did go in, and WG led for keeps. But it was far from done.
After a key point-blank stop by goalie Andrea Francisco on a tying goal attempt, Tripodi completed another strong series of passes by finding a cutting Geremia, who threw home her third goal with 6:37 left. Just 51 seconds later, it was the same play again, Geremia cutting in front, Tripodi feeding her and Geremia making it 8-5.
Penfield called time-out, but the Wildcats won the ensuing draw, and worked the ball around until Tripodi offered one more perfect feed, this time to Hawley, for a goal with 2:33 left.
All told, Tripodi had two goals and five assists and was an easy choice as tournament MVP. Geremia, Datellas, Hawley and Milne joined her on the All-Tournament team.
A few hours later, the Wildcats returned home with a police escort to Camillus, something previous teams had enjoyed – but not this one.
“We’re state champs, that’s all I can say,” said Geremia. “It’s awesome.”