A year ago, the West Genesee girls lacrosse team never got the opportunity to challenge Christian Brothers Academy as the Brothers made an undefeated run to the state Class A championship.
So when the Wildcats ventured to Alibrandi Stadium Saturday night, perhaps it remembered that missed chance – and didn’t squander this one, beating the Brothers 6-5.
Winning this game required a combination of timely goals, consistent defense and spectacular work from the trio of Mackenzie Meager, Claudia Mocciaro and Mackenzie Baker, each of whom, at different times, delivered the plays that were needed to conquer a CBA side that hadn’t faced a close call against a local opponent this spring.
The roots of this game dated back to 2016, when these two powerful sides didn’t meet in the regular season and were denied a sectional title-game showdown when WG lost to Cicero-North Syracuse in the sectional semifinals.
Now, as they finally got together, the Wildcats arrived in its best form of the season, having avenged a mid-April defeat to Fayetteville-Manlius with a 9-4 victory on Tuesday night.
It was against the Hornets that Meager, a sophomore midfielder, took over full-time duties in the draw circle. She excelled in that role, turning around a problem area for WG, and she would do the same against CBA, constantly winning extra possessions for her side.
Despite this, the only Wildcats goal in the first half came from Cecilia Procopio 55 seconds into the game. For the next 24-plus minutes, constant turnovers plagued WG as it did not convert on two different player-advantage situations and gave the deep, potent Brothers lineup all kinds of chances to take control.
And CBA did lead, 3-1, at halftime, but the Wildcats’ defense, led by Grace Walker, Erin Mills, Meredith Barrett and Emma Parry, forced the Brothers to take longer possessions and took away its transition game, too.
Mocciaro, in goal, was stellar, too, as her series of saves late in the first half kept things close. Energized by her work, WG started to take advantage of Meager’s draws early in the second half as Matisyn Schaut, Eliza MacCaull and Adrianna Nojaim hit on consecutive goals, putting the Wildcats up 4-3.
CBA used a time-out, regrouped and regained the lead on Olivia Penoyer’s back-to-back goals. Yet WG would allow nothing more and, down the stretch, took charge with its own patient attack.
Baker, to that point, had served as a distributor, earning three assists. But that changed as she fired home the tying goal with 8:48 left and, a minute later, converted again.
Meager won yet another draw, and WG tried to hold the ball, only to turn it over. CBA unleashed its fast break and, with 3:20 left, Grace Hulslander fired – and Mocciaro made yet another point-blank stop, her 11th save of the game. WG got the ball back and was able to run out the remaining clock.
WG had started this important week by getting big-time payback against Fayetteville-Manlius. Back on April 12, the Wildcats had lost to F-M for the first time in 11 years. Yet the sting from an April 29 overtime defeat at Skaneateles lingered for the Hornets and that, combined with WG’s intense focus, nearly led to a first-half shutout.
The Wildcats did just what had taken place in that first meeting, scoring the first five goals. Only here, that was spread out as, thanks to Meager, WG did a better job on the draws and stayed patient, worked long possessions and saw Baker take advantage of the attention given her by assisting on three goals while scoring another.
Any time F-M did have the ball, WG’s defenders bore down on them and forced mistakes. Even when the shots did fly, Mocciaro did a terrific job stopping them, eventually getting 11 saves, the same total she would accumulate at CBA.
Not until it was 7-0, and halftime was approaching, did F-M convert. The Hornets’ leading scorer, Keara Shanley, was kept off the board, and no Hornets player scored more than once as Katie Shanley, Jane Cote, Gemma Adonizio and Amanda Cramer got those goals.
Baker finished with three goals and four assists as Procopio also scored three times for WG. Schaut, Catherine Farrell and Ally Trice earned one goal apiece, the Wildcats accomplishing one satisfying result – and then gaining another four days later.