It was 29½ minutes of no-way-you’re-hanging-with-us field hockey, followed by some entertaining give-and-take after halftime.
Thing is, by the time it evened out Sunday morning, Whitney Point had all but secured its second straight Class C state title.
The Golden Eagles overwhelmed Section 3’s Cazenovia, building a three-goal lead 20 minutes into play and continuing on for a 3-1 win at Maine-Endwell.
This state-title run can only be described as dominant. WP played four games in the state tournament, outscored those opponents, 19-1, and left no doubt the collection of young talent it has assembled is by far the best this state can offer in Class C.
“We started peaking near the end of postseason, and you could see it,” said Whitney Point coach Nicole Huston, whose team beat Carle Place, 1-0, in last year’s state final.
To watch the first 20 or so minutes on this sunny and pleasant autumn day was to swear Cazenovia had mistakenly brought its junior varsity team to the state final.
It was that lopsided. So many penalty corners, so many quality chances, so many goals, and the ball rarely ventured into the Golden Eagles’ defensive end.
“They’re a great team, and we knew they were going to be a great team,” Cazenovia coach Lorraine Scheftic said. “They don’t stop. They just go-go-go.”
By halftime, the Point attempted 12 shots to the Lakers’ one, and the Eagles set up for 14 penalty corners to Cazenovia’s one.
The scoring started 6:23 into play on WP’s fourth penalty corner. Junior Taylor Ferro started the corner, which eventually made its way to sophomore Sierra Hand on the right side. Hand centered a pass to freshman Leanne Bough, who one-timed it into the goal from 5 yards.
Another penalty corner produced the second goal about 3 1/2 minutes later. Senior Hannah Burchell sent a shot toward goal that Maria Groetz saved, but Hand was in front to knock in the rebound for a 2-0 lead.
“We had a game plan to score early and the first half we came out dominant,” Hand said.
The final goal of Whitney Point’s 19-3 season came on a stellar individual effort from sophomore Elaina Burchell. She controlled a loose ball about 40 yards out on the right side, maneuvered past a defender and toward the end line. She then curled toward the goal and scored on a back-hander 9:56 before halftime.
“We really wanted to get going early and just get in their heads a little bit,” Bough said. “All the corners we got just pushed that momentum forward.”
It seemed certain WP would take that 3-0 lead into halftime, until the Lakers struck quickly on a fast break with seven seconds left in the half. Janie Kempf started it with a long run from the midfield down the left side. Kempf got the ball to Becca Wheeler left of the cage, and Wheeler sent a pass across the goalmouth that Morgan Giordano finished from a yard out at the right post.
That’s about when the Lakers started playing like a state finalist. Cazenovia held a 4-3 advantage in shots in the second half and looked every bit Whitney Point’s equal over the final 30 minutes.
“I wasn’t surprised that they started out the way they did, because we knew they were going to be tough,” said Scheftic, whose team’s season ended with a loss to WP for the second straight year, the first a 2-0 state quarterfinal setback, “but I also wasn’t surprised that we could adjust and come back the way we did and settle in.”
The Lakers (19-3) took a penalty corner with about 25 minutes left, one that resulted in a back-hand shot by Zoey Shephard that went just wide of the right post. About three minutes later, Kempf’s crossing pass just eluded Giordano at the right post and two minutes after that, Kempf took a shot that missed wide right.
With 2:50 remaining, Shephard had two whacks at it from close range, but senior goalie Danell Jones denied both.
“You saw some of the youth come out in the second half and we panicked a little bit when they started to pressure us,” Huston said. “We were able to regroup and pressure them for the last 10 minutes. I’m pretty proud of them, being so young — only three starting seniors and one starting junior. There are good things to come for this program.”
Hannah Burchell, who’ll join her sister Rachael (a member of last season’s state championship team) at Division I UMass next season, defender Jordyn Richards and Jones are the starters the Point will have to replace next season.
“It’s a great feeling to win two state championships in a row,” Bough said. “With like five seconds left, I was talking to one of my teammates, Hannah Burchell, and I said, ‘There’s five seconds left. We’re going to be two-peat state champions.'”