CORTLAND - In her last match against a heated rival, Lakeview's Alli Pavlik wanted nothing more than to get a win over Champion.
When the Flashes' Amber Walker tied the match on a free kick in the 71st minute, Pavlik reminded herself of this desire and how much time was left before getting back to work. Seven minutes later, Pavlik dribbled in from the left wing and fired a curling 15-yard shot to the upper right-hand corner of the net to give the Bulldogs a 3-2 win at Don Richards Stadium on Wednesday night.
It was the senior forward's second goal of the night.
"I told myself, 'I have 10 minutes left of my senior season against Champion. This is it - I'll never play them again, I'll never put this jersey on again against them. So I need to do this.' " Pavlik said. "It's the last thing I wanted to do - I wanted to go out with a bang against them."
After struggling to hit that shot throughout the match, Pavlik's game-winner came from a much closer distance.
The Bulldogs (9-3-1, 4-0-1 All-American Conference, National Division) attempted numerous shots from distance that went well wide, especially in the first half, but Pavlik and Co. created more chances and more shots in the Champion (6-3-1, 5-1-1) penalty area. Lakeview coach Shawn Varley said this made the difference in terms of the senior forward hitting her mark in the 78th minute.
"For most of the night, she was taking those shots 35, 30 yards out - that's just too far," Varley said. "Finally, she's close to the goal and actually did drive it and hit it with the outside of her foot to the backside. I was pleased with that."
Another aspect of the team that pleased Varley following the match came on defense, where the Bulldogs were stout throughout thanks to the return of defender Sydney Paul.
After missing all of last season and all but the first match this season, the senior co-captain helped steady a young backline, which snuffed out most of the threatening passes and runs deep into their half. The defense pressed the Flashes further up the field.
"This was her first real game back, and I think that really contributed to us settling down on defense," Varley said. "She brings senior leadership back there - I'm starting a freshman at sweeper and another freshman on the outside, and I think she really brought a lot of calmness to our defense. I think that contributed to us winning the game."
Although Lakeview's defense held strong, the Flashes pounced on the few chances they had, scoring off a penalty kick in the 29th minute when a Lakeview defender felled freshman Isabella D'Urso in the box before Walker stepped up to convert it. The senior scored later on the 20-yard free kick to start a frenetic, up-and-down final 9 minutes.
"Amber's a key player on the team," Champion coach Dan Houle said. "She's got a devastating shot. You've got to make them count. If they're going to be quality shots, make them quality shots."
The Bulldogs are now three matches away from clinching an AAC, National Division title. Since Pavlik's freshman year, the Bulldogs have claimed a conference title every year, she said it would be special to go out as a champion.
"I've had three years now," Pavlik said. "If I can really get it my fourth year, it'd be great. It's like the missing puzzle piece to putting everything together. We just need to finish these last couple of games of the league and we've got it."