Jun 16, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
For a collective moment, the West Genesee girls lacrosse team, on the field and standing on the sidelines, took in a deep breath and hoped for the best.
Once that moment had passed, once Farmingdale’s last shot had gone wide, and once a second consecutive state Class A championship was attained, it was time to let loose.
Players hugged each other on the field and screamed for joy. Maria DiFato went so far as to do a somersault. A season full of high expectations had been met with perfection — earned the hard way.
WG’s 12-11 victory over Farmingdale in last Saturday’s state final at SUNY-Cortland was a high-level masterpiece, in doubt from the opening draw to the time Melanie Raso’s last shot bounced off target.
That last shot had every single Wildcat player dealing with unbearable tension.
“My mind was going nuts,” said Lauren Welch. “I was just praying that nothing bad would happen.”
“Our hearts all stopped,” said Ariel Kramer, who put in the go-ahead goal with 3:18 left in regulation, one of her five goals on the afternoon.
It was that kind of game, a heart-stopper in doubt all the way through, and it required a lot of character — something head coach Bob Elmer said his team clearly possessed.
“They’ve shown this kind of heart all year,” he said. “It (a game) is always 50 minutes. We kept playing hard until the last whistle. This feels amazingly good.”
What didn’t feel so good was the way the game started — a loss of the draw to Farmingdale’s Candice Rossi, and Rossi streaking right down the field and putting a shot past WG goalie Kelly Fucillo with just 11 seconds expired.
Rossi would continue to dominate the draws for much of the game. Elmer tried five different players — Kramer, Amanda Cizenski, Nicole Perkins, Karen Bianchi, Bre Hudgins – but none of them could consistently keep Rossi from gaining possession.
Still, the Wildcats stayed aggressive and forced enough turnovers to get its fair share of chances in the first half, and would keep pace with the Dalers.
Since the opposition was intent on stopping Kiersten Tupper, her line-mates flourished. Kramer and Welch both had three-goal hat tricks before halftime, and that allowed WG to answer every Farmingdale charge with one of its own.
“We knew that we had to have our ‘A’ game,” said Welch. “If we just relaxed, stayed cool and played like we normally played, we would be okay.”
Trailing 7-5 late in the first half, WG got even on back-to-back goals by Kramer and Welch, and Welch converted again to give the Wildcats its first lead at 8-7 — but that was brief. Alyssa Kildaire’s goal 22 seconds before the half tied it again, 8-8.
That didn’t seem to bother the Wildcats too much. Kramer converted for the fourth time early in the second half, and when Cizenski scored with 18:37 left, WG had a 10-8 lead, forcing Farmingdale to use a time-out.
Giving itself a chance to regroup, the Dalers did so, and drew even again 10-10 barely two minutes after the time-out. Kelly McPartland and Janine Hillier scored, too, completing a 4-0 spurt that had the Wildcats behind again, 12-10, with 14:19 to play.
Using its own time-out, the Wildcats staged its own revival, especially on the defensive end. Perkins, Steph Datellas, Laura Lucchesi and Lauren Corso got more aggressive with the Dalers’ attackers, forcing bad shots and coaxing a series of turnovers as Fucillo worked her total to nine saves. Farmingdale would not score again.
“Our defenders did an outstanding job,” said Elmer.
Meanwhile, DiFato had cut the margin to 12-11. After a long, tense standoff, the Wildcats forced the game’s seventh tie at 12-12 when Welch, off a feed from DiFato, notched her fourth goal with 6:24 left.
As the clock in regulation began to wind down, WG regained the ball, attacked, and Hudgins forced a free-position at point-blank range. Instead of shooting, though, Hudgins passed it to Kramer, whose hard shot flew past Dalers goalie Lauren Maxsym into the net. It was Kramer’s fifth goal, and she would eventually be named tournament MVP.
At jut the right moment, the Wildcats won the ensuing draw, giving it a chance to possess the ball and try to run out the clock. Kramer, Bianchi, DiFato, Tupper and Cizenski kept the ball in their sticks until Rossi forced a turnover in the corner of the field with 15 seconds left.
“All we were thinking about was that we had to make sure they didn’t score,” said Perkins.
Rossi raced up the middle, went into Wildcat territory, and drew a foul with seven seconds left. With everyone on the sidelines and in the crowd screaming, Rossi passed it to Raso with two seconds left. Raso had a good look and tried to bounce a shot past Fucillo, but it went too high off the turf and sailed wide by inches.
By claiming its second state championship with an undefeated record of 24-0, the Wildcats built its win streak to 48 games, and have lost just one game in the last three seasons dating back to 2006.
Win no. 47 in that streak had come in last Friday’s state semifinal against Lancaster (Section VI), which was a stark contrast to the drama that would follow against Farmingdale.
The experienced Wildcats roughed up the Redskins, who were appearing in its first-ever state final four, in a 17-2 romp that was one-sided all the way through.
Lancaster did not even have the ball for much of the first half. WG was methodical and relentless, going ahead 5-0 before the game was 10 minutes old and 10-0 by halftime. The Redskins did not even get on the board until the second half.
Welch and DiFato led the way with four goals apiece. Kramer, Bianchi and Cizenski each scored twice, while Tupper had four assists to go with her single tally. Hudgins and Carly Motondo also scored, with Kellyn Savage contributing a pair of assists.
As much as possible, WG conserved energy for the final — and would need every bit of that energy to survive the challenge from Farmingdale, leading to a title that felt just as good as the one earned in 2007.
“It’s amazing and we deserved it,” said Kramer. “We all really wanted it.”