In their most optimistic of outlooks, the Westhill and Marcellus girls lacrosse teams would not just end their long wait for a Section III Class D championship, but would do at the expense of each other.
Neither got their wish, the no. 2 seed Warriors and no. 4 Mustangs both upended in Thursday’s semifinals at Christian Brothers Academy’s Alibrandi Stadium.
Going first, Marcellus tried to topple top seed and state no. 1-ranked South Jefferson, only to get smothered by the Spartans in a game full of frustration that led to a 10-3 defeat.
These same teams had met in this same semifinal round one year ago, only it was Marcellus as the state’s top-ranked team at the time and South Jefferson challenging them. Then, as now, it turned in the Spartans’ favor.
It took all of 53 seconds for Mackenzie Alexander to score and give South Jefferson a lead it would not relinquish. By possessing the ball for long stretches and defending hard, it threw Marcellus into confusion and caused a string of mistakes.
Not until the 12:03 mark of the half did the Mustangs get on the board with Madison Green’s goal, which made it 2-1, but then the Spartans reeled off four straight goals, the biggest run of the afternoon as Lily Powell cut the deficit to 6-2 before halftime.
When Grace Coon converted two minutes into the second half to make it 6-3, there was a brief moment of optimism for the Mustangs, but that was quickly stifled. South Jefferson kept getting possession and gradually wore Marcellus down.
Alexander finished with five goals, half the Spartans’ output. Cassidy Burnash added a pair of goals and South Jefferson’s Paige Crandall made seven saves, while Mustangs counterpart Rebecca Nutting had five saves.
Now it was Westhill’s turn, attempting to eliminate reigning state champion Skaneateles and avenge an 11-9 defeat from April, but it could not quite pull it off in a frustrating 9-6 defeat.
Four different times in the first half, the Warriors trailed, only to pull even, Katelyn Karleski scoring twice as Maura McAnaney, Caroline Miller and Reilly Geer also found the net.
Karleski’s second goal made it 5-5, but with chances to get the lead late in the half, Westhill could not do so, and Gaby Welch converted 30.9 seconds before halftime and the Lakers were up again, 6-5, and would stay there.
Much of the second half was a standoff, with one goal on each side and the Lakers attempting to sit on its slim margin. But it turned in a sequence where goalie Ryley Pas’cal stopped the Warriors point-blank on a tying shot with eight minutes left and, seconds later, Olivia Navaroli converted on the other end.
That made it 8-6, and the Lakers burned most of the remaining clock, adding a last-second goal by Grace Dower, who finished the night with three goals as Skaneateles advanced to face South Jefferson in the sectional final.
Getting to the semifinals wasn’t too difficult for either side. Westhill put away no. 7 seed Homer 15-7 in last Tuesday’s quarterfinals s Marcellus outscored no. 5 seed General Brown 21-10.
Rebecca Gilhooley went to the forefront for Westhill against Homer, leading her side to a 10-4 halftime advantage and not letting up until she had netted six goals as Geer got two goals and two assists.
McAnaney scored three times, with Sam VanBuren matching Geer’s two-goal output as Karleski and Miller had one goal apiece. Between them, goalies Morgan Elmer and Fran Argentieri stopped 14 of 21 shots.
Marcellus was not as stingy against General Brown, the first half turning into a wild, back-and-forth display of skills. The Mustangs had more of it, though, steadily building a 13-7 advantage.
Then the defense tightened and Marcellus ran away from the Lions, having seen Coon and Katherine Locastro each net six goals as Coon added four assists.
Powell found the net three times, with single goals going to Green, Lily Locastro, Katy Wangsness, Anna Vetsch, Sarah Hutchings and Taylor Reich. Locastro and Wangsness also had assists.
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