Jun 05, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Now the Cazenovia boys lacrosse team is one victory away from adding a second state Class C championship to the one it earned in 2011.
The Lakers moved to the brink of the summit Wednesday night at St. John Fisher College, near Rochester, where it fought off a comeback from Section V champion Penn Yan and prevailed 8-7 in the state semifinals.
The combination of Ryan Cook’s four goals with a tenacious, hard-hitting defense that played its best in the closing minutes helped the Lakers eliminate the Mustangs and earn a trip back to St. John Fisher for Saturday’s state title game at 1:30 against Bronxville, who knocked off defending state champion Shoreham-Wading River 14-13 in overtime in the other state semifinal.
“Our defense played a great game the whole way through,” said Cazenovia head coach Jim Longo.
It only figured that the Lakers’ defense featured in the closing sequence. Down 8-4, Penn Yan had rallied to pull within one, and had the ball in the final minute with a chance to tie it.
Twice, pressure from Laker defenders forced the Mustangs to call time-outs. Finally, Connor Cannizzaro moved to the back line and forced Bradley Voigt into one more costly turnover, and Cazenovia ran out the clock.
Cazenovia was well aware that Penn Yan, in this same round a year ago, ended Homer’s state title bid. But it was also playing on the same St. John Fisher turf where it won the 2011 state semifinal over Silver Creek en route to its first-ever state title.
Both sides endured turnovers and wide shots in a nervous start. And it was a turnover, deep in Laker territory, that led to the first goal, scored by Penn Yan’s Ryan Maciejewski at the 5:45 mark.
The Mustangs got the slower tempo it wanted and, on defense, made its strategy clear as it double and triple-teamed Cannizzaro every time he got near the net.
Just as in other instances where Cannizzaro was targeted, Cook flourished. He flashed open in a man-up situation and converted on a high shot to get the Lakers on the board, and P.J. Brown’s goal late in the period gave Cazenovia a 2-1 lead, but Austin Fingar answered in the last minute of the period, pulling the Mustangs even 2-2.
Voigt’s behind-the-back goal early in the second quarter pushed Penn Yan back in front 3-2, but a hard defensive hit set up an easy answer from Cook on the fast break and a 3-3 tie.
Midway through the period, the Lakers tried to break clear. Henry Mann put Cazenovia in front with a strong move from the left side, and Cannizzaro did the same thing exactly one minute later to make it 5-3.
As this went on, Joe Colligan, Jay Hahn, Eli Mitchell and the Lakers’ back line forced the Mustangs into turnovers and didn’t let them respond. When Cook made a superb move near the net and poured in his third goal less than a minute before the half, the margin grew to 6-3, where it stood at the break.
With a man-up situation to start the third quarter, Penn Yan immediately turned it over again, and two minutes later Cannizzaro, finally with some space to operate, ripped in a shot from the point for his second goal, extending the lead to 7-3.
Penn Yan went more than 15 minutes without a goal before Rion Davison converted in a man-up situation that cut the margin to 7-4. But its propensity for turnovers continued to help the Lakers nurse its lead through most of the period.
Cook struck for his fourth goal and made it 8-4, but that would be Cazenovia’s last tally of the night. Maciejewski answered a minute later, and early in the fourth quarter Andrew Perl’s goal made it 8-6, proving that Penn Yan was far from done.
A long Mustang possession led to Voigt’s second goal with 4:56 left. Brad Nardella won the ensuing face-off, and the Lakers tried to run out the remaining clock, but the Mustangs forced a last-minute turnover, which only meant that the Laker defense would shine again.
Cazenovia holds the experience edge on Bronxville in the state final, with several players like Cannizzaro, Colligan, Nardella, Alex Sullivan, Jake Falge, Kyle Brown, Mike Nourse and Jay Hahn part of the team that won it all in 2011. Still, said Longo, everyone will be nervous.
“There’s a little bit of comfort, but it’s an exciting time,” he said.