A season after nearly claiming the Section III Class B title, the Cazenovia boys soccer team knows that getting back to that elite position will not be easy.
All but one starter from the 2012 season, when the Lakers reached the sectional final before falling to Westhill, graduated, including the likes of Brody Kellish, Conor Race, Brad Nardella, Connor Polsin and Tyler Dunkle.
With a brand-new starting lineup in tow, Cazenovia opened play Aug. 31 at Rome Free Academy, where it took a half for everything to click before the Lakers beat the Black Knights 2-0.
Neither side scored until the opening minutes of the second half, when Kevin Porter broke the deadlock with a goal less than two minutes after the break.
Then Cazenovia’s defense did everything it could to protect that 1-0 lead until Porter returned and, with eight minutes left, put in the insurance goal, assisted by Will Fellows.
When the Lakers visited Marcellus for last Wednesday night’s OHSL Liberty division opener, it proved a defensive struggle most of the way, but the Lakers still did enough to pull out a 1-0 victory over the Mustangs.
Marcellus, whose last sectional title came in 2009, kept the game 0-0 much of the way and limited Cazenovia to a handful of genuine scoring attempts. But that didn’t stop Henry Mann from breaking in and beating Mustangs keeper Ian LaFever for the lone goal in the second half.
Still on the road Friday, Cazenovia went to Phoenix, and this proved an easier assignment as a dominant first half led to a 5-1 victory over the Firebirds.
No one on Phoenix’s defense could stop Mann, who poured in three goals, plus an assist, leading the way as Cazenovia seized a 4-0 halftime edge.
In support, Porter and John Rodriguez each finished with one goal and one assist, while Ryan Henderson picked up an assist, too. The Lakers took 18 shots, to the Firebirds’ five.
Cazenovia had its home opener Tuesday, against Jordan-Elbridge, before two more road games against Solvay on Thursday and Cortland on Saturday afternoon.