Jun 05, 2014 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
While the Cazenovia boys lacrosse team knew that it would pass through familiar territory if it wanted to go all the way to a third state Class C championship in four years, it had no idea just how familiar it would get.
Just like in 2013, the Lakers will have to beat Salmon River in the regional round, Penn Yan in the state semifinals and then Bronxville in the state final to win it all.
Cazenovia passed through the second part of that tried-and-true trifecta Wednesday night at another well-known location, Cicero-North Syracuse’s Bragman Stadium, where with a patient attack and a lights-out defense it turned back Penn Yan again in an 8-6 decision.
“It’s awesome,” said senior defender Mike Nourse of returning to the state finals. “This is what we have worked for our whole lives, ever since we were little kids.”
Lakers head coach Jim Longo said that he wondered, after the departures of Connor Cannizzaro and Ryan Cook, if his team could stay on top – and it has managed to go 22-0, with one game left.
“I was cautiously optimistic,” he said. “We were hoping to get back to this point, and we have.”
To get back there, Cazenovia had to heavily lean on Nourse, Jay Hahn, Eli Mitchell and T.J. Connellan, the anchors of the Lakers’ match-up zone defense, to turn back Penn Yan after falling behind 3-1 late in the first quarter.
With subtle adjustments to the zone, especially in the second half, Cazenovia found it easier to turn back the Mustangs, who were out to avenge last year’s tense 8-7 defeat to the Lakers in this same state semifinal round.
It also helped that Cazenovia goalie Trevor Cross was in top form. Time and again, when Penn Yan did break through the defenses and got a clear shot, Cross snagged it, ultimately finishing with 12 saves.
“Trevor saved us big-time,” said Longo. “He stood up really well for us.”
All of that defensive work started to pay off when P.J. Brown, Derek White and Jake Lewis hit on consecutive goals in the second quarter to give Cazenovia it first lead at 4-3, though Penn Yan’s Andrew Perl answered late in the half to tie it, 4-4, where it stood at halftime.
They traded goals again in the third quarter, but after Perl converted at the 6:07 mark of the period, the Mustangs would not score again for more than 16 minutes, ample time for the Lakers to seize control.
Yet it didn’t really happen until Brown, with the score 6-5, twice worked his away around the Mustangs’ physical defenders to score key goals in a span of one minute, 12 seconds early in the fourth quarter.
Brown said that the Lakers’ coaches challenged him to catch Penn Yan in transition before settling into its zone. When he did so, Cazenovia really took control since, once again, Henry Mann did a terrific job in the face-off circle, winning most of the fourth-quarter draws.
And this helped bring the Lakers into the state final Saturday at 4 p.m. at Hofstra University on Long Island, and a rematch with Bronxville, whom it beat 13-11 in the 2013 state final at St. John Fisher College near Rochester.
Bronxville handled Babylon 14-7 in the other state semifinal and has waited 12 months for revenge. Then again, so did Salmon River and Penn Yan, and neither could catch the Lakers.
“I can’t wait to go back there,” said Brown.