Beating an opponent three times throughout a season is one of the most difficult challenges in sports, but the Ithaca Little Red girl’s lacrosse team completed the sweep of the Corning Hawks with 12-10 victory in the Section IV Class A championship game on Thursday night.
The two teams met twice during the regular season, with both contests being won by the Little Red. The first of the two Ithaca wins came by a 12-10 scoreline in Corning, while the second subtracted a goal from each side for an 11-9 Ithaca win.
The Little Red entered the game coming off its first loss to a New York opponent, Baldwinsville, which is ranked as the top team in the state. BJ Bliss, the head coach of the Little Red, made note that his team had its most focused practices of the season following the loss.
The Little Red fired out of the gate with an early opening goal from its leading scorer, sophomore Mackenzie Rich, who tallied her 70th goal of the season. Rich would leave the field with an injury, soon after, so her teammates stepped up to fill the void.
Ithaca wasted little time building on the early goal, as junior Skyler Orlowski doubled it to 2-0 moments later.
With a 2-0 lead and the early momentum, the Little Red broke down the Hawks’ defense with prolonged possessions inside of the Corning defensive half.
Senior Julianna Saggese continued the offensive flow as she netted a quick feed across the middle for Ithaca’s third goal after knifing her way into the open lane.
After a few empty-handed chances for the Hawks in the offensive half of the field, Corning was once again backed into their own half as the Little Red picked up three more goals from juniors Haley Richardson and Jamie Lasda and freshman Shea Baker to complete a 6-0 run for the Little Red to start the first half.
The Hawks would find an answer, soon after, as Head Coach Kevin Scanlon called a timeout following the sixth Ithaca goal, sparking his team to score its first goal from Olivia Tanneberger, cutting the lead to five goals.
Orlowski, not wanting to see the Hawks gain momentum before halftime, rattled off two more goals, completing the first half hat-trick, to give the Little Red the 8-1 lead, the scoreline that the teams would take into the break. At the start of the second half, there was a different feel to the game, as the Hawks demonstrated an attack-first mindset.
Ithaca saw a number of draw control opportunities be granted to the Hawks, who slowly began chipping away at the Ithaca lead.
While the game got closer throughout the second half, with Corning stringing together a four-goal run at one point, the Little Red made sure to bend but not break, looking to the offense to hold off the late surge.
For every offensive scare that the Hawks posed, Baker stepped in for the Little Red, tacking on two more goals of her own to help break up two different Corning runs.
With Corning zeroing in on the lead, the Little Red defense turned aside the Hawks to gain a late-game possession that would see Ithaca shield possession, running down the clock.
With the final horn, the Little Red held a 12-10 lead, good enough to capture their second consecutive Section IV Class A title and keep the season alive.
“We bent but did not break,” said Bliss after the game. “We knew they would throw everything at us, and we knew it was a survive and advance mentality.”
With a 15-2 record, the Little Red will be taking on Baldwinsville at this weekend’s NYSPHHAA regional matchup, taking place on Saturday at 11 a.m. at Fayetteville-Manlius.
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