Every time the ball came to her, Cazenovia field hockey star Rachel McLaughlin said she just hit it as hard as she could. “Just get it in the goal,” she said.
McLaughlin's shots did find the net, twice in the first half, in the Lakers' 2-0 victory over Section II champion Hoosick Falls in the Class C regional finals Saturday at Cicero-North Syracuse's Bragman Stadium.
And because of those goals, Cazenovia is heading back to the C-NS turf next weekend for a shot at its third state championship in four years. The Lakers face Barker (Section VI) in the state semifinals Saturday at 3:30, with the winner of that game advancing to Sunday's 12:30 final against Pierson/Bridgehampton or Whitney Point.
McLaughlin’s first goal came off an assist from Sarah Willard. The pass from Willard bounced past the Hoosick Falls goalie on to McLaughlin’s stick, where she rifled a shot on the left side of the net for the game’s opening goal 13 minutes into the contest.
Then McLaughlin’s second goal came 10 minutes later off a broken penalty corner. “She just went after it,” Cazenovia head coach Lorraine Scheftic said. “She was supposed to pass it to someone else, but she did pass it and the girl wasn’t there, so she stepped in and she basically took her own pass.”
McLaughlin noticed immediately that something was wrong with the play, and knew she had to hit the ball as hard as she could to score.
“When the opportunity’s there, you've got to take it,” she said.
Going into halftime, the Lakers maintained its two-goal lead, not letting up anything on defense to the Panthers. Scheftic said it was nice to go into halftime with a two-goal cushion, but added her team has been up 3-0 before and still got caught.