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OT goal helps field hockey Lakers escape ESM

Willard scores, Caz extends league win streak to 76

— Cazenovia's field hockey team has seen its Onondaga High School League win streak extend long enough to know that every single opponent will want to be the one to end it.

East Syracuse-Minoa nearly did so, pushing the visiting Lakers to overtime Wednesday night before Emily Willard's goal, 22 seconds into the extra period, produced a 2-1 victory over the Spartans.

That now makes it 76 consecutive league wins, few as tough as this one. Not only is ESM a strong Class B title contender, it was playing at home, on its artificial turf.

Cazenovia had not practiced or played on turf yet, having seen its Sept. 8 game at Rome Free Academy postponed due to weather until early October. So there figured to be an adjustment period in the middle of a game against a high-quality opponent.

The Lakers controlled the ball for most of the first half, but did not get many point-blank shots, despite a handful of penalty corners. ESM's defense was effective turning away shots, and goalie Rachel Aird would not let anything get past her.

Then came a wide-open sequence late in the half. First, the Spartans had a penalty corner, and Amy Loder had a wide-open look, only to see her shot get deflected inches wide.

Less than a minute later, a Laker fast break culminated with Rachel McLaughlin scoring off a feed from Sarah Willard, and Cazenovia nearly converted a penalty corner seconds before halftime, but it remained 1-0 going into the break.

And it stayed that way through much of the second half, too. Cazenovia's pressure was conventional, but Aird kept cool, piling up 17 saves by night's end.

ESM had numerous chances to tie it, too, and on two occasions Cazenovia goalie Lauren Devine had to make superb stops - once a kick save on a hard-hit attempt by Loder at the eight-minute mark, then on a diving stop later in the half.

But with 8:58 to play, Loder, so close twice before, finally did connect on a hard shot that sped past Devine, tying the game 1-1. It was the first goal Cazenovia had allowed all season.

Though the Lakers applied pressure late in regulation, it stayed even. But now it was going to overtime, and the seven-on-seven format that played to the Lakers' advantage due to its skills advantage.

Sure enough, Cazenovia immediately moved down the field and pushed itself into position. McLaughlin made the pivotal pass, and Emily Willard's shot eluded Aird and found the cage to end it.

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