All of the tough contests the West Genesee girls lacrosse team has gone through – and won – has certainly steeled them for what will come at the end of this spring.
At the very least, the Wildcats put the lessons from those games to good use Friday night in its lone regular-season encounter with Baldwinsville, relying on Hannah Elmer’s passing and more stellar defense to beat the Bees 8-4.
So much of the Wildcats’ run of six state Class A championships has come at the expense of B’ville, who has not won a sectional title since its run to the state crown in 2000.
As usual, the Bees arrived at this game determined to give WG battle, having won five in a row since a season-opening defeat to Farmingdale on April 2.
To counter B’ville’s aggressive style, the Wildcats made sure it kept the ball in the opponent’s end throughout the first half, a task made easier by seizing a 2-0 lead in the first seven minutes on goals by Elmer and Jamie Martin.
Vicki Graveline won a majority of the draws, leading to long possessions, and WG’s defense, led by Marissa Hudgins, Abby Connor, Courtney Shoults and Dina Cavallaro, quickly forced turnovers any time the Bees got close to the net.
Thus, the Wildcats could go more than 12 minutes without a goal and not suffer one bit. Elmer fed Cailyn Negus and Taylor Collins for goals late in the half, doubling the margin to 4-0, and WG nearly got a first-half shutout.
But B’ville didn’t surrender. Marjorie Dehm scored on a fast break four seconds before halftime, cutting WG’s lead to 4-1, and after Collins found the net early in the second half, Sarah Klaben and Kennedy Frink put in goals that made it 5-3 with more than 18 minutes to play.
Calling a time-out, the Wildcats turned to Graveline, who forced a turnover, hit a shot hard off the left post, and then returned second later to beat Lauren Burrows for a crucial goal with 15:40 left.
B’ville never got close again as Elmer, who would finish the night with six assists, offered timely passes to Collins and Martin for goals in the latter stages.
Given its recent pattern of play, the Wildcats could not afford to take B’ville lightly, not after three straight close calls against Section V opponents, all in a 10-day span.
What started with a 10-8 victory over Canandaigua on April 13 and continued in an 8-7 thriller against Pittsford on April 17 continued last Tuesday night, at Penfield, where WG sweated to the end to gain a 5-4 victory over the Patriots.
This game had more meaning than the others because Penfield had faced the Wildcats in last year’s state Class A final at SUNY-Cortland, a game that was close and tense deep into the second half before a late offensive surge gave WG the 9-5 win and its sixth state crown.
Penfield, no. 11 in the latest state Class A rankings, would again dictate the game’s tempo in the rematch, possessing the ball for long stretches and forcing WG to be patient and wait for chances.
The Wildcats’ defense would thwart most of the Patriots’ attempts, especially in the second half as WG, trailing 3-2, would only allow one goal the rest of the way and come back to tie it, 4-4. Graveline scored twice, with Negus and Grace Osterdale landing single goals and Elmer earning three assists.
Then, with four minutes left, Alia Hildebrandt threw home the go-ahead goal, and from there WG held on, regaining possession and using its patented possession game to put away another hard-fought victory.
With the win, WG, sitting again atop the state Class A rankings, improved to 10-0, and is expected to cruise past Rome Free Academy and Central Square next week before Saturday’s trip to meet yet another powerful Section V foe, Honeoye Falls-Lima, who beat CBA 9-7 last weekend at Alibrandi Stadium.