After three straight losing seasons following its last Section 4 title in 2009, the Ithaca High girls lacrosse team had an opportunity Thursday to put the exclamation point on a season in which it returned to prominence.
Corning had different plans, however.
Michelle Schwartz had four goals and an assist and Neena Merola added three goals and an assist as the Hawks built a big lead early in the second half before withstanding a late rally for a 13-11 victory in the Section 4 Class A title game at Union-Endicott’s Ty Cobb Stadium.
Corning (12-4) won its third straight Section 4 Class A title and will play the Section 10 champion at a date and site to be determined.
Ithaca (10-5) had lost to Corning in their previous two encounters this season, 12-8 at home on April 11 and 10-5 on May 13 in the regular-season finale for both teams.
The Little Red trailed 6-4 at halftime before Corning went on a surge to build a big lead, as Schwartz scored all four of her goals in the opening nine minutes of the second half as the Hawks pushed their lead to 11-5.
It was 12-6 with 13:23 remaining before Ithaca made one last push, with Lindsay Biondi scoring three goals in a 5-1 run, including the final one with 36.8 seconds remaining to bring Ithaca within 13-11.
But Ithaca never got another significant scoring chance, and Corning ran out the clock to secure a victory that turned out to be a little more dramatic than anticipated about 15 minutes earlier.
“Clearly they are a talented team and I have a lot of young girls,” Ithaca coach Lyn Reitenbach said. “All I wanted was for our girls to fight and scare them. We just dug ourselves a little hole that we almost got out of but couldn’t.
“The beginning of this year and last year, nobody expected anything out of this team. Where they’ve come from, I’m happy.”
Neither team got much going offensively in the early going, as both defenses did a good job of limiting prime scoring chances.
Biondi finished with six goals and two assists.
The biggest lead for either team was one goal until Corning scored three straight goals in a 3½-minute span late in the first half to take a 6-3 lead. Allie Cornell-Roberts scored with 50 seconds left in the half to bring Ithaca within 6-4 at the break.
Corning turned it up a notch in the second half, and when Ithaca responded, it was too late.
“It always means a lot to get to the state tournament,” Corning coach Kim McNaney said. “Some years we take it for granted to get through sectionals, but this year, definitely not.
“Ithaca came on strong, we had three close games against them, it could have gone either way.”