For the Marcellus girls soccer team, none of the obstacles that stood in the way of a return to the Class B state final four would deter them - least of all an undefeated opponent atop the state rankings.
The Mustangs went to Stilllwater High School on Tuesday night and, with a pair of late goals from seniors Brielle Filtch and Emma Blystone less than five minutes apart, knocked off Section II champion Schalmont 2-0.
So much was at stake in this game. Not only did the Sabres carry a 21-0 record and the top state ranking into this regional showdown, it also beat Marcellus 2-1 in this same regional round a year ago, and it was playing close to home.
But while Schalmont had those advantages, Marcellus had with it the confidence borne out of a tough, come-from-behind Section III Class B final win over Westhill. Plus, the Mustangs had all kinds of motivation to get payback against the Sabres after the disappointment in 2012.
Through a tense first half, neither side could get on the board. Marcellus and Schalmont were both physical on the defensive side, proving successful in deflecting opportunities out of trouble.
Deep into the second half, it was still 0-0, but the Mustangs picked up its pressure, sending Madison Belvito and Jada Sargeant out on the wings to draw the Sabres' defenders out.
Then, with 15:46 left in regulation, Filtch, who scored the winning goal in the sectional final against Westhill, took a pass from Meghan Witkowski and, with one touch, flung the ball past Schalmont goalie Gabrielle Juers to put her side in front.
Before the Sabres could adequately recover, Blystone burst in and, with 9:30 to play, beat Juers for the insurance goal.
Led by Witkowski, Alana Montreal and Shannon Donahue, the Mustangs' defense turned away all of Schalmont's remaining chances. Between them, goalie Maggie Fiacchi and Emily Buschbascher made six saves.
Marcellus plays Saranac (Section X) Saturday in the Class B regional final at Chittenango High School, needing just one more win to get back to the Cortland-Homer area for next weekend's state championships.