For the fourth time in six years, the Cazenovia boys soccer team find itself one victory from the Section III title that has long eluded them.
And just like in 2016, Westhill stands in the way.
By defeating no. 3 seed Marcellus 3-1 in Thursday night’s Class B sectional semifinal at Jamesville-DeWitt High School, the no. 2 seed Lakers earned a rematch of last year’s final against top seed Westhill, who edged South Jefferson 1-0 in the other semifinal.
Cazenovia gave the state no. 5-ranked Warriors its lone defeat of the season earlier this month at the Sean Googin Sports Complex by scoring two goals in the waning minutes to pull out a 2-1 decision. Four weeks later, the rematch decides a sectional title.
Getting there required some payback, though.
Back on Sept. 5, Cazenovia hosted Marcellus and lost by that same 2-1 margin. Since then, both sides had flourished and reached the state Class B rankings – the Lakers at no. 13, the Mustangs at no. 17.
It looked, at the outset, like Marcellus would build upon its regular-season success against Cazenovia, attacking hard and going in front 1-0 less than nine minutes into the game on a nice touch pass from David Bosak to Carter Austin, who from point-blank range put it past Thomas Bragg.
By the midway point of the half, though, the Lakers were settling down on both ends. Defensively, the likes of Trey Schug, Sean McNerney, Liam Flannery, Justin Gagnon and Steve LaFever proved so effective that Bragg only had to make a handful of tough stops.
On the other end, Ryan Modzeleski began to take over when Cazenovia was awarded a free kick in the 35th minute. Modzeleski shot low, past the wall and just inside the right post past a diving Marcellus goalie, Sam Hayduke, to tie it, 1-1, where it stood at halftime.
This carried over into the second half with a string of Lakers attacks, and in the 52nd minute Modzeleski drove past two defenders on the right side and took a hard shot that Hayduke could not gather in, allowing Alex Pezzi to jump in and put the rebound into the unoccupied net.
Not sitting on its 2-1 lead, Cazenovia continued to keep the ball in the Marcellus end, the work paying off when Modzeleski took another run down the right side, and this time shot it past Hayduke for the clincher.