This is exactly where the West Genesee boys lacrosse team expects to be, heading toward a decisive Saturday in June and closing in on a state championship.
Having gone to the top 15 times before in head coach Mike Messere's tenure, the Wildcats have a shot at no. 16 after Wednesday night's 11-6 victory over Section V champion Penfield in the state Class A semifinals at St. John Fisher College, near Rochester.
Between Ryan St. Croix's six goals and a defense that, anchored by goalie Matt Koziol, proved tough when necessary down the stretch, WG displayed most of the qualities that have marked its championship teams of the past, even though it's the Wildcats' first state finals appearance since 2008.
"I've never had this feeling before," said St. Croix. "I'm excited, both for the team and for the alumni."
"It (2008) seems like a million years ago," said senior midfielder Ted Glesener. "We weren't supposed to be here, but look at us now."
So much had changed since WG beat Penfield 5-3 in the March 30 season opener in Camillus, but what they both shared was unlikely, dramatic runs to the state semifinals.
The Wildcats had won three straight post-season games by a single goal, while the Patriots had made a stirring late-fourth quarter comeback to beat Orchard Park 12-11 in its regional final.
But WG trumped Penfield from a historical standpoint, aiming to make it to a 22nd state championship game, a plateau the Patriots had never reached before - and would not do so on this night, either.
Just as in its other playoff games, WG struck first, Glesener feeding Dan Ginestro for a goal 1:32 into the first quarter. And it controlled the ball through the early stages, taking multiple shots until Tom Pritchard made it 2-0 four minutes later.