Reid Garner struck again. So did the Cicero-North Syracuse girls soccer team's stifling defense, protecting a lead the way it has done throughout what is turning into a long post-season run.
Those elements, put together, have the Northstars on the way back to the state Class AA final four after it defeated Section II champion Niskayuna 1-0 in Saturday's regional final at Stillwater High School.
Nearly two months have passed since C-NS has allowed a goal to anyone. That came way back on Sept. 18, when the Northstars lost to Baldwinsville 3-2.
Since then, C-NS has enjoyed nothing but shutouts - 14 of them in a row. This remarkable defense is anchored by goalkeeper Alyssa Jim, one of just two senior starters, who has paired with junior Chloe Borasky to keep every shot out of the net.
In front of them, junior captain leads the back line. Two other juniors, Mary Kate Ordway and Abby Tolbert, are defensive stalwarts, with sophomores Meghan Duffy and Kate Wagner offering plenty of strong play, too.
Together, their work allows C-NS's active group of midfielders, including Hanna Haven, Marissa Rio and Stephanie Liberati,to make long runs, either down the wings or up the middle, without much worry about getting caught on the other end.
What can also relieve the pressure on a defense is a quick goal - something the Northstars were all too glad to do against Niskayuna.
Catching the Silver Warriors off guard, C-NS attacked from the start,and just 2:30 into the game, Garner, unassisted, sent a shot that found the net, her fifth goal in the Northstars' last three post-season games.
Niskayuna's defense, from that point forward, did a terrific job stifling C-NS's many attacks. and that allowed the Silver Warriors to start making its own runs - though again the defenders broke them up before Jim could handle a shot.