Manlius Chris Wang was, for the most part, a spectator this fall, watching as his Fayetteville-Manlius boys soccer team rose as high as no. 2 in the state rankings, only to falter a bit in the latter part of the regular season.
Just in time, though, Wang returned to the field - and the senior forward proved spectacular in Wednesday night's Section III Class AA quarterfinal, recording a hat trick to lead the no. 4 seed Hornets past no. 5 seed and defending champion Utica Proctor 4-1.
Early in the season, Wang broke his collarbone, which kept him out of play for more than a month. Even as F-M built a 12-4 record, it at times lacked the sort of finishing ability that Wang brought to the field.
Wang's first game back was on Oct. 16, a week before the playoffs started, and he netted a goal in the Hornets' 5-0 win over Auburn. Still, no one was prepared for the way Wang would assert himself against Proctor, looking for a similar run to the one it enjoyed in 2012, when it beat three higher seeds (Baldwinsville, Liverpool and Cicero-North Syracuse) en route to its first-ever sectional title.
To start with, the game had an old-school feel because F-M moved the show back to its old home field at Swan Pond, where it played just once this season, on Sept. 12 (beating Corcoran 11-0). The local knowledge would prove helpful, though not right away as Proctor played solid defense in the game's early stages, turning back three Hornets corner kicks.
Then, in the 18th minute, Wang took over. Tyler Snow flung a quick pass from the right side, and in a single motion Wang buried a hard, low shot that Raiders goalie Refik Begic had no chance to stop, putting F-M in the lead. Just eight minutes later, Connor Snow took his turn in the assist column, his free kick headed into the net by Adam Bem to make it 2-0.
Less than three minutes before halftime, F-M drew another corner kick, initiated by Joe Amato. When Begic could not handle Dante Pavone's shot, Wang swooped in and put home the rebound, giving F-M a comfortable 3-0 margin going into halftime.
The Hornets were a bit careless in the second half, watching Proctor get a series of chances before Liam Patterson scored midway through the half. The Raiders got no closer, though, and with 3:47 left Wang, off another good feed from Connor Snow, converted his third goal to clinch it.