Perhaps the Cazenovia boys soccer team has enjoyed more important victories in its history, but not that many.
It wasn’t just that the Lakers, with a pair of late goals, knocked off Westhill 2-1 last Tuesday night at the Sean Googin Sports Complex. The circumstances made a satisfying effort several times sweeter.
For one thing, the Warriors beat Cazenovia in last year’s Section III Class B final. For another, Westhill had started 11-0 this season and had risen all the way to no. 2 in the state Class B rankings, trailing only Center Moriches.
Cazenovia, despite its own strong 8-1-1 start, did not reach the state rankings until this week, and only at no. 18, a position that’s bound to change after the events of this particular match.
The first half, and a good portion of the second half, belonged to the defenses on either side. While there were plenty of runs, few direct shots were taken, and the Lakers’ defense at least put the team in a position to where it could win if something broke on the other end.
Urgency to make just that kind of play only grew when Mack Etoll found the net with 12 minutes left. Down 1-0, Cazenovia maintained its poise, found an opportunity and, with 6:20 left, drew a Westhill foul inside the 18-yard box, leading to sophomore Joe Spires’ successful penalty kick.
Even at this point, the Lakers weren’t happy just to force a possible overtime. The pressure built up and, getting an open look, senior Ryan Modezeleski blasted it past John Geer for what proved to be the game-winner. It was Modzeleski’s 12th goal of the season, and by far his most impactful.
The only problem for Cazenovia was that it had to play again two days later against a strong, underrated South Jefferson team, and whether it was underestimating the Spartans or having a letdown, the Lakers were turned back in a 3-2 defeat.
Alex Pezzi put Cazenovia in front 1-0, only to have South Jefferson answer with a pair of goals to get in front, 2-1, by halftime. Seven minutes into the second half, Modzeleski pulled the Lakers even again, 2-2.
Again, the game was decided in the final minutes, only it was due to a Lakers foul inside the 18-yard box that the Spartans turned into a successful penalty kick. Owen Fish, Zach Wildrick and Spencer Gray had one goal apiece in South Jefferson’s winning effort.
Back at the start of the week, Chittenango took its 7-3 record to Skaneateles, a place where Cazenovia had won, 2-1, the week before. The Bears also scored twice at Hyatt Stadium, but ended up on the wrong end of a 3-2 overtime decision.
Goals by Jeff Palmer and Noah O’Connor had helped Skaneateles take a 2-1 lead to halftime. But Chittenango’s defense tightened in the second half and it pulled even, 2-2, having seen Seth Spurgeon and Anthony Roberts find the net.
But in the first sudden-death OT period, Skaneateles attacked once more, and Palmer headed it past Noah Schnauffer for the game-winner. Prior to that point, Schnauffer had made eight saves.
This frustrating defeat did not discourage the Bears too much, for it returned home Wednesday and beat Phoenix 3-1. Yet even this game was nervous for a while, Riley Belknap’s goal helping the Firebirds forge a 1-1 halftime tie.
Chittenango got away in the second half, overcoming the 16 saves from Phoenix goalies Holt Reed and Sam Stellingwerf as Zach Jasmin anchored the attack, scoring once and assisting on goals from Vince Cameron and Tim Ryder. Spurgeon assisted on Jasmin’s tally.
Meeting Homer on Saturday afternoon, the Bears made it back-to-back wins, again by a 3-1 margin. Marcus Karam’s goal allowed the Trojans to forge a 1-1 halftime tie, but Chittenango pulled away in the second half.
Three different Bears – Tommy McIntosh, Sean Larsson and Brian Schermerhorn – earned the three goals, with assists credited to Ryder, Jasmin and Jacob Boyer. Schnauffer stopped seven of the eight shots he faced.
It’s a tough final week of the regular season for Chittenango, having its own game with Westhill in between home dates against Solvay and Holy Cross Academy. Cazenovia also has three games, going to Mexico before hosting Jordan-Elbridge and New Hartford.