Vicki Graveline still has plenty of lacrosse games left in her career. But she might never hit bigger goals than she did on Saturday night, when in the clutch she pushed the West Genesee Wildcats back to the state Class A final four.
WG's pursuit of a first state title since 2008 started Saturday with the state quarterfinal against Section IV champion Corning – at Corning’s Memorial Stadium, a reversal of the home-field advantage WG enjoyed in the Section III final against Liverpool earlier in the week.
And this game proved everything the sectional final was not – tense, suspenseful, stressful and exciting. But thanks to Graveline, the Wildcats escaped Corning with a 10-9 overtime win and another regional title.
A combination of the former Corning East and Corning West sides, the Hawks displayed its intentions in the first half with four straight goals, three of them from Neena Merola, to seize a 4-1 lead.
Unfazed by this, WG caught up through a well-balanced attack as Liz LaComb, Kara Datellas, Shannon Hawley and Nicole Bello all found the net. And the Wildcats saw more chances scooped up by Corning goalie Caitlin Cavallaro, which kept the game 6-6 going to the break.
The defenses took over for most of the second half, Merola adding a fourth goal to tie it 7-7 after WG briefly went in front. Mallory Frysinger pushed the Hawks ahead 8-7 with 10:41 to play, where it stayed until Bello scored with 2:49 left, making it 8-8.
Amid the tension of the final minutes, a yellow card left the Wildcats a player short. Taking advantage, the Hawks drew a free position and, with 50.6 seconds to play, Merola beat Andrea Francisco for her fifth goal of the night.
Trailing 9-8, and facing the real prospect of its first-ever defeat in a regional final, WG won the ensuing draw. Datellas got the ball and fed it to Graveline, a midfielder who had only moved into the attack during the second half, an attempt by the Wildcats to get a spark somewhere.