Heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson used to say, “Everybody has a plan till they get punched in the mouth.”
For the Marathon girls’ soccer team, that figurative blow came just 16 seconds into Tuesday’s Section 4 Class C semifinal.
The punch was delivered by Lansing senior striker Maddie Czymmek, a converted defender, who scored the first of her two goals before anyone could warm up their Sobus Field seats. She added a second goal just over nine minutes later, giving the Bobcats an early 3-0 lead and sending the home team to a 5-1 victory and a berth in Friday’s sectional title game.
Senior Reilly Zajac also had two goals for Lansing (13-4-1), which will take on top seed Elmira Notre Dame (15-1) at 5 p.m. Friday at Norwich High for the Class C championship. The Crusaders defeated Trumansburg, 2-0, in the other Class C semifinal.
The Bobcats will be looking for their second straight title and seventh in the past nine years. Marathon finished its season 11-4-1.
“We played well in spurts — we scored very early, and you can never expect those things,” said Lansing first-year coach Ken Kutler, the retired director of athletics at Ithaca College who took over this year for Eric Stickel, whose promotion at the Ithaca Police Department earlier this year forced him to step aside.
“We came out knowing that this was an important game,” he said. “And I thought we came out well, we took it to them and we shot the ball on goal, which is important.”
Sophomore goalie Lena Gisler made four saves to pick up the victory for Lansing, last year’s state Class C runner-up, whose only losses this season have come to Class AA schools Cicero-North Syracuse and Baldwinsville and to Class B Dryden twice.
Senior co-captain Ashley Bush had the lone goal for Marathon, about 11 minutes in and just over a minute after Czymmek’s second score put the home team up by three. Sophomore keeper Sydney Jennison stopped 14 shots for the Olympians, who were outshot, 27-6.
Kutler said he moved Czymmek up to striker from central defender about three games ago and switched talented sophomore Kassie Riemer back to a holding midfield position. With Riemer controlling the center of the field all game long, the move certainly paid dividends on Tuesday.
“She (Czymmek) does have some power, and she’s a senior and one of our captains,” Kutler said. “I think that leadership is needed up top. And she certainly did well tonight. And having Kassie back as one of two holding center midfielders gives us some depth, which we needed, and it worked well.”
Czymmek is all for the switch to forward, she said.
“It’s a lot different than defense, but I really like it because I can be aggressive up there and go hard,” she said. “I like to run around and try to lose defenders and score. It’s a lot of fun up there.”
She admitted that scoring so early in the game wasn’t exactly the game plan, but it wasn’t a total fluke, either.
“I’ve been making that near-post run, and usually it doesn’t come to me,” she said, “but this time it did and I just hit it, and it went in.”
After Czymmek’s early strike, Zajac doubled the lead just over a minute and a half later with a blast from the top of the 18-yard box. Czymmek converted a Dean feed at the 10-minute mark to put Lansing comfortably in front.
Any doubt was removed early in the second half, as Zajac deposited a loose rebound off a corner kick just 2:05 after the break to make it 4-1. Dean capped the scoring with a laser of a free kick from about 30 yards out that struck the underside of the crossbar and went in.
Czymmek is excited by the prospect of a second straight sectional title, even with the top-seeded Crusaders standing squarely in the way.
“That would be awesome,” she said. “We just have to come out hard, we know END is a good team, but if we do what we did today, I think we can get it.”