With its trademark brand of stifling, man-to-man defense, the West Genesee boys lacrosse team kept host Penfield off the scoreboard for most of Saturday afternoon's season opener - and still lost.
Unable to take full advantage of that strong resistance, the Wildcats left itself vulnerable to a comeback, which is just what the Patriots pulled off in the fourth quarter, leading to a pair of overtime periods and, ultimately, a 4-3 defeat.
A season ago, Hall of Fame coach Mike Messere helped WG reclaim the Section III Class A throne, beating Fayetteville-Manlius in overtime, and went from there all the way to the state championship game before Ward Melville stopped the Wildcats one win short of a 16th state title.
A large group of seniors, including Ted Glesener, Dan Ginestro, Brady Hoose, Garrett Waldron, Jim Cunningham, Tom Pritchard and Ryan St. Croix, graduated, but a strong group returns, too, including midfielder David Procopio, defenders Nick Mellen and Collin Kobuszewski, plus goalie Matt Koziol.
And as an opening test, WG faced the same Penfield squad it beat 11-6 in the 2013 state Class A semifinal at St. John Fisher College. This time, the game was on the Patriots' home turf, but for a long while it looked like it would end in the same satisfying matter for Wildcat partisans.
Most of the first quarter was a 0-0 stalemate until sophomore Ian Cahill found the net at the 10:28 mark. Then the Wildcats added to that lead late in the second period as Procopio scored and Nick Cunningham converted less than a minute before halftime.
And that would be WG's final goal of the day. Throughout a scoreless third quarter, that didn't look to be a major problem, since Mellen, Kobuszewski and the rest of WG's back line kept frustrating Penfield's attack, and Koziol stopped every shot in his direction.