For the sixth time in the last seven years, Port Byron and Weedsport will meet in the Cayuga County Field Hockey Tournament's championship game.
The Warriors and Panthers each surged to early leads and cruised to big wins in the semifinals at Weedsport High School Tuesday. Weedsport beat Homer 6-0, while Port Byron defeated Cato-Meridian 11-0.
Port Byron and Weedsport will meet in the championship game Wednesday.
"We are ecstatic to be able to play Weedsport again," Panthers coach Mindy Gilbert said. "The kids are looking forward to it. We wanted to play well tonight to get our momentum to carry into tomorrow's game, and we look forward to that. It's always a battle."
Port Byron opened the scoring 42 seconds into their semifinal matchup and built a three-goal lead by the 3:18 mark of the contest. The Panthers took a five-goal lead into halftime and piled up six more goals in the second half.
"I said we needed to strike first and not let up. Take the wind out of their sails and just keep going at them, and they did a really nice job with that," Gilbert said. "I told them to play, have fun and carry yourself with poise and everything else will fall into place and it certainly did."
Jenna Weston paced the Panthers offense with four goals and one assist. Rileigh Gray and Hannah Martens each scored twice, Alli Ryan added one goal and two assists, and Lyla Barerra tallied one goal and one assist.
Sarah Mapley rounded out the scoring, and Jordyn Baker and Maddie Dautrich each recorded one assist.
Cato-Meridian goalie Kennedy Pelkey finished with 11 saves. The Panthers had consistent pressure throughout most of the contest, and didn't allow the Blue Devils to get a single shot on goal against goalie Amanda Chuttey.
"I always tell them to be relentless, don't give up, keep persevering, push forward and work well as a team, and they did," Gilbert said. "They came together. They were communicating. They were on the same page, which is huge. I think they're excited and looking forward to tomorrow's game."
In the other semifinal, Weedsport took the lead 3:42 into the game and had a three-goal advantage by the midway point of the first half. With firm control of the game, the Warriors potted three more insurance markers in the second half.
"It was important to make sure we set the pace," Warriors assistant coach Libby Marsden said. "We have a new scoreboard — it's pretty beautiful — and we discussed how we needed to be the first ones to put a number on the board."
Ashley Wightman scored three times and added an assist for Weedsport. Libby Nemec and Brianna Hall each chipped in a goal and an assist, Tiana Kreydatus scored once, and Jackie Renner and Suzie Nemec each had one assist.
Eighth-grader Mariah Quigley didn't need to make a save in goal for the Warriors.
"I'm really proud of our defense and the way they work together. They're always talking and making sure that the pressure is up," Marsden said. "Our offense has speed and they're really working well as a unit this year. That will be a big thing for us: how the defense and offense click."
Weedsport and Port Byron are now slated for their sixth meeting in the county championship game Wednesday. The Panthers won their first title last year, but the Warriors won the championship each of the five years before that.
For Gilbert and her 14 returning players from last year's squad, the goal now that they've won a championship is to successfully defend it.
"It took us 10 years to get that title," Gilbert said. "We talked about how we wanted that same feeling as last year when we won that title. We're working for that."
Cato-Meridian will play Auburn in the consolation game Wednesday. Auburn didn't have enough eligible players Tuesday, so Homer filled in.
Moravia, another Cayuga County team who won the tournament three times, chose not to participate.