With its superiority over its neighbors firmly established, the Cicero-North Syracuse girls lacrosse team set out to do even more and end a two-decade wait for a Section III championship.
In last Thursday night’s sectional semifinal at Fayetteville-Manlius, the no. 4 seed Northstars went after top seed West Genesee, a direct result from having defeated no. 5 seed Liverpool 8-3 two nights earlier in the opening round at Bragman Stadium.
And in a superb defensive showing, C-NS shut out the Wildcats in the second half, yet still found that not quite enough as it lost a tough 6-5 decision and saw its title hopes end.
C-NS had defeated the Wildcats early in April, and while WG got even a month later, it still felt the pressure of having to atone for recent post-season struggles against a stingy Northstars side.
Matisyn Schaut got WG going with a pair of early goals, aided by a tally from Mackenzie Meager, making it 3-0 before C-NS could get on the board.
Then Phoebe Nelson initiated another Wildcats run, followed by Emily Stratton’s goal and then Schaut converting for the third time, all within the game’s first 15 minutes.
And WG would not score again. A strong Northstars defense starting to establish itself, which sparked the team on the other end as C-NS converted twice and moved within 6-3 by halftime.
Gaining energy as the game wore on, the Northstars didn’t allow the Wildcats to break out of that slump anywhere in the second half. That gave C-NS ample time to make up the rest of the ground, Brenna Duffy scoring with 16:32 left to make it 6-4.
When Jessica Meneilly found the net with 9:58 to play, the Northstars’ deficit was down to one, and it made an all-out effort to pull even, gaining possession whenever WG tried to keep it away.
Twice in the homestretch, C-NS got point-blank chances to tie it. Both times, WG goalie Madison Fox turned them away, including one with one minute left in regulation.
Meneilly was the only Northstars player to score twice. Megan Tryniski had two assists to go with her lone goal as Olivia Massena also converted.
Before all this, there was the matter of C-NS having to beat Liverpool again.
Their two regular-season meeting, on April 12 and May 1, had gone in the Northstars’ favor by 9-7 and 13-10 margins. Everyone on both sides expected a similarly tight battle in the playoff match, and it was that way for a while.
Defenses ruled throughout the first half, but C-NS was particularly stingy, limiting the Warriors to a single goal while waiting for its own attack to break through on a consistent basis.
Up 3-1 at the break, C-NS was content to keep the pace where it was because it wouldn’t let Liverpool catch up, especially since goalie Kailtlyn Lippert was having a sensational night, stopping 13 of the 16 shots she faced.
Yet it wasn’t until the final minutes that a string of scoring plays secured the Northstars’ semifinal berth. Tryniski had a three-goal hat trick, adding an assist as Meneilly scored twice. Molly Malchanoff got a goal and two assists as Duffy and Massena also found the net and Fran Tortora added an assist.
Liverpool, whose season ended with an 8-9 record, only got goals from Abby Hope, Emily Salanger and Jenna Irwin as Hope and Salanger added assists.