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.
But, oh boy, did a seven-goal lead dwindle quickly for the Wildcats in the state Class C girls lacrosse semifinal as defending champion 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 CBA to close within a goal with 1:08 left.
Then here was SWR, facing 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 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. It then shifted back to Class C. 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."
SWR led 5-4 at halftime and dominated early in the second half as CBA seemed bound to incur enough yellow cards to fill a deck. "We tried to be aggressive," CBA coach Doug Sedgwick said, "but all the calls went against us." Their fourth card came with 18:59 left, 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 SWR up 14-7 with 9:33 left. But despite having only three offensive players, Romeo scored six goals -- four on free positions -- during the late charge. The Syracuse team 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.