A potent and poignant mix of excitement and nostalgia surrounded the West Genesee boys lacrosse team's 22nd state Class A championship game appearance Saturday at St. John Fisher College near Rochester.
Not only were the Wildcats back in a familiar setting, it was facing a familiar opponent - Ward Melville, with whom it dueled four times in state finals in the 1990s, each side winning twice.
But unlike the tense, low-scoring clashes of days gone by, this edition was never in question. Jumping all over West Genesee, the Patriots, the nation's top-ranked team, defeated the Wildcats 16-4 and won its eighth state title, but first since 2000.
In doing so, Ward Melville kept WG head coach Mike Messere from getting a 16th state championship, which may have proved the most unlikely of the whole bunch, given how it went 10-6 in the regular season and, for long stretches, looked like anything but a contender, especially with key players like Garrett Waldron and Zach Anderson out due to injury.
Yet a dramatic post-season run, including a rally for a last-second victory over Baldwinsville in the Section III semifinals, a double-overtime conquest of unbeaten Fayetteville-Manlius in the sectional title game, a tense win over Ithaca in the regional final and an impressive performance against Penfield in the state semifinals, had WG fans believing that it was a team of destiny.
Ward Melville cared little for this sort of magic, though. All the Patriots knew was that it had gone 13 years without a state crown, and with an abundance of skill and talent on hand, was not about to let its one-time rival for state supremacy keep them from an appointment with the first-place trophy.
Following an early exchange of goals, Ryan St. Croix converting for the Wildcats to tie it, 1-1, Ward Melville took command with a 4-0 run, slicing through the usually stout WG defense as Christian Mazzone, Jack Bruckner, Jake Kepes and Brendan Hegarty all scored.