Jun 11, 2007 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Libby Johnson and Stephanie Rice walked to the center of the field Sunday at SUNY-Cortland and accepted the plaque emblematic of the Skaneateles girls lacrosse team’s successful 2007 season.
But it wasn’t the plaque they wanted to receive.
Attempting to win a third consecutive state Class C championship, the Lakers were thwarted by Shoreham-Wading River, beaten in a gripping 11-9 title game where the Wildcats kept Skaneateles from making one more memorable comeback.
“It wasn’t our day,” said head coach Bridget Marquardt. “Everyone worked hard and played with a lot of heart, but they (Shoreham) were the better team.”
So ended a weekend full of contrasts. Given the way Skaneateles had played Friday in its 19-4 destruction of Nanuet in the state Class C semifinals, hardly anyone could figure that any Class C team was capable of being better.
The Lakers were primed for the final, set for Saturday. They had gone through this routine twice before, in 2005 and ’06, following up a strong semifinal performance with a successful title-game venture less than 24 hours later.
Only the Saturday final never happened this time. A fierce thunderstorm hit the Cortland area Friday night, keeping Shoreham from facing East Rochester in the other state semifinal until Saturday afternoon.
When they finally did play on Saturday, Shoreham won, 15-7, but the larger impact was on the idle Lakers. Marquardt said her team was primed to play that day, and the pushing back of the final to Sunday caused the team to lose a good share of its momentum.
If that was the case, it wasn’t apparent early in the final. Kelsey Nangle scored twice, and when Libby Johnson found the net 8:33 into the game to make it 3-0, Shoreham was forced to use a time-out to regroup.
Shoreham head coach Bob Vlahakis said his team adjusted to the Lakers’ attack by going into a zone, rarely used at the high-school level but utilized by three-time NCAA champion Northwestern.
This set-up allowed Skaneateles to possess, but not get a constant stream of open looks. Above all, this affected Rice, who was shut out in the first half as the Wildcats kept her from breaking free, often double or triple-teaming her.
And even when the Lakers were getting shots, Shoreham goalie Michelle Verbeeck was scooping them up. Her six first-half saves kept the Wildcats from falling too far behind.
Slowly, the Lakers’ lead evaporated, thanks to Kristen Anderson, whose three goals helped the Wildcats forge a 4-4 tie by halftime.
Shoreham then surged ahead in the second half, as the Lakers three times switched goalie, using both Gigi Vaughn and Heather Mullen to try and stem the Wildcats’ surge.
Rice finally scored 3:36 into the second half, but it would be her only goal. Still, Skaneateles rallied, as Shannon Tierney scored one goal and set up the other, by Nangle, to tie the game at 7-7 with 16:31 left.
Unfazed, Shoreham made its decisive move, putting up four unanswered goals to go back in front 11-7, during which time it blanked Skaneateles for more than 12 minutes.
“Every time we got momentum going, they got the draw and capitalized on their opportunities,” said Johnson.
Vlhakis said he reminded his players during a time-out that Skaneateles had come back before, most famously in last year’s state final against Penn Yan (and also in this year’s regional final against Corning East), so that it couldn’t relax.
“Our team has such heart and we knew we could come back,” said Johnson.
Sure enough, the Lakers made one more push. Johnson scored with 4:23 left, and Karen Vitkus broke through the zone for a goal with 1:46 left, cutting the margin to two.
Skaneateles kept attacking as time wound down, but Shoreham blocked three different shots, clinching its first-ever state title in the process.
As it turned out, the last entry in the Lakers’ 20-game win streak was the semifinal against Nanuet, a clinic where the Lakers, who got fierce battles from CBA and Corning East in its previous two outings, played to its highest level.
It was 6-0 before Nanuet got a goal, 9-1 by halftime, and 13-1 (and into a running clock) before Nanuet could even regroup.
Rice and Tierney each put up four goals, backed up by Johnson and Jenna Lotkowictz each getting three-goal hat tricks. Nangle scored twice as Vitkus, Lindsay Angelillo and Laura Trenti earned single tallies.
Any time Nanuet wanted to attack, the Skaneateles defense, led by Amy Riehlman, Margaret Shanley, Jessica Chalupnicki and Kaitlin Clark, shut things down and set up the attack for a sprint to the other net.
This led to the weather-delayed championship game, and to a painful ending for departing seniors like Rice, Johnson, Clark, Vitkus and Chalupnicki, all of whom helped the Lakers win those first two state championships.
But a big cast will still be around in 2008. Nangle, Tierney, Lotkowictz, Shanley, Riehlman, Vaughn, Mullen, Trenti and Angelillo form a strong core of players that will be hungry again after seeing its crown slip away.
“Now we have something to work for again,” said Marquardt.
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