CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Since the game's final minutes supplied so much of its own, we'll spare the suspense: Shoreham-Wading River advanced to the state final with a 14-13 win over Syracuse-Christian Brothers Academy Friday at SUNY-Cortland.
But, oh boy, did a seven-goal lead dwindle quickly for the Wildcats in the state Class C girls lacrosse semifinal as defending champion Syracuse-CBA, with four players down, staged what was almost an epic comeback.
The Wildcats struggled to gain, and maintain, possession late and, despite its advantages, allowed Syracuse-CBA to close within a goal with 1:08 left.
Then here was SWR, facing Syracuse-CBA superstar Marisa Romeo, already with seven goals, on a free position with 25 seconds left, against Lauren Daly, a freshman goalie, who never had played in a game of this magnitude.
"I wasn't feeling great," Wildcats coach Mary Bergmann admitted. "[Romeo] is a good shooter and she was putting them away. They had momentum and were winning all the draws. I thought if they tied it, we might have trouble in overtime."
And with a freshman goalie . . .
"Her being a freshman doesn't affect her in the least," SWR attack Katie Boden said. "That's the MVP right there. She just shines in big moments."
Daly had a sparkling low deflection of Romeo's free-position shot and, after a rebound and reset for Syracuse-CBA, she dazzled with a save of Caroline Webster's high liner with 14 seconds left. Call that a Daly Double.
"I was a little nervous in the beginning," said Daly, who played with a bruised left knee. "But at that point in the game, it's all instincts."
The goalie's guile -- and her 14 saves -- have the Wildcats in the championship game at 9:30 a.m. Saturday against Honeoye Falls-Lima.
Boden had three goals and three assists for SWR (16-3), which won four straight state Class C titles before a move to Class B last season. Alyssa Pearce added three goals, Paulina Constant, Lauren Lustgarten and Jessica Angerman each scored twice, and Alex Fehmel had a goal and an assist.
"CBA had its chance last year," Constant said. "We're here to take back what's ours."
The Wildcats led 5-4 at halftime and dominated early in the second half as Syracuse-CBA seemed bound to incur enough yellow cards to fill a deck. "We tried to be aggressive," Syracuse-CBA coach Doug Sedgwick said, "but all the calls went against us." Their fourth card came with 18:59 remaining, and five players eventually were ejected, including goalie Courtney Henderson with three seconds left.
"They were getting a little crazy and we capitalized," Constant said.
Boden's goal -- off a feed from Shannon Rosati -- put the Wildcats up 14-7 with 9:33 left. But despite having only three offensive players, Romeo scored six goals -- four on free positions -- during the Syracuse-CBA' late charge. Syracuse-CBA had rallied late to beat Mount Sinai, 9-8, in last year's final.
"We got a little comfortable," Bergmann said, "and we can't afford that against great teams."
Good thing for the Wildcats it was Freshman's Friday.