Cazenovia defenders Eli Mitchell (11) and Jay Hahn (1), flanked by Cole Willard (24), join goalie Trevor Cross in shutting down Penn Yan's attack in Wednesday night's state Class C semifinal. During the second half of the Lakers' 8-6 win, it held the Mustangs without a goal for more than 16 minutes.
Cicero While the Cazenovia boys lacrosse team knew that it would pass through familiar territory if it wanted to go all the way to a third state Class C championship in four years, it had no idea just how familiar it would get.
Just like in 2013, the Lakers will have to beat Salmon River in the regional round, Penn Yan in the state semifinals and then Bronxville in the state final to win it all.
Cazenovia passed through the second part of that tried-and-true trifecta Wednesday night at another well-known location, Cicero-North Syracuse's Bragman Stadium, where with a patient attack and a lights-out defense it turned back Penn Yan again in an 8-6 decision.
"It's awesome," said senior defender Mike Nourse of returning to the state finals. "This is what we have worked for our whole lives, ever since we were little kids."
Lakers head coach Jim Longo said that he wondered, after the departures of Connor Cannizzaro and Ryan Cook, if his team could stay on top - and it has managed to go 22-0, with one game left.
"I was cautiously optimistic," he said. "We were hoping to get back to this point, and we have."
To get back there, Cazenovia had to heavily lean on Nourse, Jay Hahn, Eli Mitchell and T.J. Connellan, the anchors of the Lakers' match-up zone defense, to turn back Penn Yan after falling behind 3-1 late in the first quarter.
With subtle adjustments to the zone, especially in the second half, Cazenovia found it easier to turn back the Mustangs, who were out to avenge last year's tense 8-7 defeat to the Lakers in this same state semifinal round.
It also helped that Cazenovia goalie Trevor Cross was in top form. Time and again, when Penn Yan did break through the defenses and got a clear shot, Cross snagged it, ultimately finishing with 12 saves.