May 24, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Young, poised and fearless, the Cicero-North Syracuse girls lacrosse team pulled off what no one else had in seven years – namely, beat West Genesee in the Section III Class A playoffs.
Hanna Haven’s goal with 38.0 seconds left proved the difference-maker as the Northstars stunned the top-seeded, defending state champion Wildcats 7-6 in Friday’s Class A semifinal at CBA’s Alibrandi Stadium.
A Northstars roster with just five seniors ended WG’s title run, which had included six consecutive sectional titles and a trio of state crowns in that span. Not since 2006 had the Wildcats lost in sectional post-season play.
“We have matured through a lot of adversity,” said C-NS head coach Lloyd Hamilton. “The girls have worked tremendously hard to get better and have done a fantastic job.”
Against the same WG side it lost to 13-5 back on April 4, C-NS showed just how much it had grown, playing sound defense and staying patient on the offensive end, even after the Wildcats erased the Northstars’ 6-4 lead late in regulation.
With 1:13 left, C-NS had the ball and called a time-out. Assistant coach Jim Praino said that his instructions to the team were to remain patient and wait for the right shot.
That moment came when Haven, a sophomore, cut in front of the Wildcats’ defense and, taking a pass from freshman Samantha Tortora, took a shot just as she was knocked to the turf that eluded WG goalie Andrea Francisco and found the net.
Still, it wasn’t over. A long scramble following the draw found the Wildcats’ Cailyn Negus coming up with the ball and drawing a foul. Charging down the field, Negus tried to go to the net, but a trio of C-NS defenders stripped the ball away, allowing the clock to run out.
To some degree, C-NS was helped by the game’s unique circumstance. WG, due to its top seed and first-round bye, had not played in 10 days. And both sides had to deal with an odd late-May mix of rain, wind and cold temperatures.
Having fallen behind 7-0 in the first half of that first meeting, C-NS knew it had to get a better start here, and did, Haven getting her team on the board 2:08 into the game, just 28 seconds after WG’s Vicki Graveline got the game’s first goal.
That set the pattern. Every time the Wildcats wanted to get control, taking leads of 3-1 and 4-2, the Northstars would respond, as Meghan Duffy scored twice, including one late in the half that cut the deficit to 4-3 at halftime.
All the while, freshman Mary Kate Bonanni, helped by the likes of Sarah Bowles, Jill Goettel, Kaitlin Uva and Alyssa Stahr, clamped down on the Wildcats’ attack, Bonanni paying particular attention to WG’s top assist-maker, Hannah Elmer, who would not get a point on this day.
Sensing that it had a chance, C-NS tied it, 4-4, just 25 seconds into the second half on Tiffany Ryan’s goal. Nine minutes later, Tortora fed Tiffany Ryan for the go-ahead goal as the Northstars took the lead for the first time.
Throughout the latter stages, sophomore goalie Bri Stahr dazzled as she made a series of point-blank stops to keep her team in front.
“Bri has been an unbelievable stopper,” said Hamilton.
When Bowles scored with 10:09 to play, that margin doubled to 6-4, but WG wasn’t done. Goals by Riley Donahue and Taylor Colilns, the latter of them with 6:27 left, evened it up at 6-6, and with the Wildcats having won so many close games this spring, it looked like the champs would escape again.
But as time wound down, C-NS made one more big defensive stop, and when the opportunity presented itself in the final minute, Haven converted.
And now the Northstars can look ahead to Tuesday night’s Class A final at the Carrier Dome, where it will face no. 2 seed Baldwinsville, who beat Liverpool 10-7 in the other semifinal. Game time is at 6 p.m.
C-NS and B’ville split their two regular-season meetings, but Hamilton said his team will not have a letdown from the emotional high of ending West Genesee’s long title reign.
“We’re always ready to play,” he said.