CICERO – In a season in which the Akron boys' lacrosse team finally succeeded in its tireless quest to reach the state final four for the first time, the Tigers developed a case a stage fright at the worst possible moment.
As a result, the best season in Akron history is just that.
The Tigers (18-2) came up short, woefully, in their quest to become just the second Section VI champion to ever reach a New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association championship game.
Section III champion and private school Syracuse Christian Brothers Academy not only defeated the top-ranked Class D team in the state but dominated Akron from start to finish in easily taking a 20-3 decision before an estimated 1,200 at Cicero-North Syracuse High School.
The Brothers (17-5) seized control of this semifinal, scoring the first six goals and bolting to a 7-1 lead after one quarter. The state's second-ranked team seemingly gathered most of the ground balls and easily found open spots in the Tigers defense throughout this one and led 13-2 at halftime.
Perhaps the outcome would have been closer or at least different had Akron played its best game.
The Tigers say they didn’t, leaving them wondering what might have been and forcing them to begin preparations for next season instead of Saturday's state championship game at St. John Fisher College in Rochester.
That's where first-time state semifinalist CBA faces Section I champion Westlake for the crown.
"Just didn't show up to play like we did on Saturday," said Akron junior Owen Hill, who was held to one goal after an eight-point effort in the double overtime win in regionals against Penn Yan. "They have some pretty good guys and they're pretty well-coached. We just didn't come ready to play that's all."
Weylon Abrams and Michael Miller also scored for Akron, which trailed 16-2 after three quarters. CBA led by so much that a running clock was used for most of the second half.
Michigan-commit Alex Calkins (three goals), a junior, opened the scoring with the first of his two first-quarter goals just 2 minutes, 17 seconds into the game. He along with Ben McCreary (five goals, one assist) and Patrick O'Brien (four goals) took turns finding the back of the net throughout most of this contest for CBA.
"We tried to make everything as comfortable and relaxing for the boys," Tigers coach Gary Sundown said. "To me we played a big high profile game like this and we didn't get off the bus. To me we didn't challenge them."
While Wednesday's outcome didn't sit well for Akron, it doesn't change the fact that the Tigers earned a spot in the Western New York boys' lacrosse history book.
Any Section VI team reaching the state final four is a feat to be celebrated since such instances are rare. Akron was the first Section VI champion to reach this point since Hamburg (Class B) in 2013.
Orchard Park, Amherst and Silver Creek are the others from Section VI to reach the state semifinals with OP the only one to ever play for a championship (2000, 2001, 2009).
"This was unchartered waters for us," Hill said. "There's a lot of butterflies for the fellas."
It took a lot of work and an eight-point effort from Hill last Saturday to finally clear the Penn Yan obstacle in Far West Regionals after suffering season-ending losses to the longtime state power in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Sundown hopes it doesn't take the program nearly as long to return this game in an attempt to take it one step further.
"I don't really want to wait three more years," Sundown said. "We're going to get back to work. The good thing about this team is it's full of juniors and underclassmen. We only have two starters who are seniors. We will be back."